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US starts pulling out some troops from Kabul as Biden sticks to Aug 31 deadline for withdrawal

US starts pulling out some troops from Kabul as Biden sticks to Aug 31 deadline for withdrawal

The United States appears to have started pulling out some of the 6,000 troops it has at the Kabul airport with US President Joe Biden deciding to stick to the August 31 deadline for the complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to some reports in the US media.

Leading US daily The Washington Post cited an unnamed defence official as saying that some troops not critical to the evacuation mission have been removed already.

CNN has also reported the troop withdrawals, citing two unnamed defence officials.  “So far, the reduction does not affect the mission. The commander on the ground can decide what military personnel are in units that are no longer required. That decision can be based on a few factors, including the number of gates open at the airport, the number of people coming through and more,” one of the officials said.

‘If you can have a smaller mission set and still conduct the mission, then you can reduce your footprint and reduce your risk,’ CNN quoted the official as saying.

Also read:  Will Biden release an Afghan drug lord in exchange for the last American hostage with the Taliban?

In her briefing earlier, White House press secretary Jen Psaki would not confirm whether the US military is starting to pull out.

The US had 2,500 military personnel left in the country but had then sent in additional troops to secure the Kabul airport as the Taliban took over entire Afghanistan in a lightning advance and marched into Kabul. The number of US troops was then increased to 6000. There are also a small number of troops at the Kabul airport from NATO allies such as the UK and Germany to assist in the evacuation of their citizens. 

President Joe Biden on Tuesday stuck by his plan to remove the nearly 6,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by August 31, but also said it was contingent on whether the Taliban cooperates to allow the evacuation of more Americans and at-risk Afghans.

According to a Reuters report, U.S. officials say the troop withdrawal must begin no later than Friday to be completed by Aug. 31 and it will take several days. The troops at Kabul airport include Marines and paratroopers.

As they pack up their equipment and withdraw, the speed of evacuations by U.S. and allied forces which had touched 20,000 people a day this week is bound to slow down.

Since Aug. 14, more than 70,000 people, including American citizens, NATO personnel and Afghans at risk, have been evacuated from Kabul, Biden said on Tuesday.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Pentagon has the ability to get all Americans who want to leave out by Aug. 31 and U.S. officials say 4,000 Americans have been evacuated so far. However, the exact number is still not known as some Americans are not registered with the U.S. embassy.

The Pentagon has also committed to evacuate the roughly 500 Afghan soldiers who have been helping to protect Kabul airport.

The US allies including Britain and Germany had sought an extension in the deadline as thousands of Afghans who officials and advocacy groups say face potential retribution at the hands of the Taliban, will not be able to leave by Biden's deadline.Biden has come under severe criticism over the withdrawal from Afghanistan with his job-approval rating falling to a 7-month low.