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Rabu, 14 April 2021

Joe Biden says it's time to 'end America's longest war', as final Afghanistan withdrawal announced - ABC News

US President Joe Biden says America will finally end its 20-year war in Afghanistan from May 1, with US and allied forces to completely depart no later than September 11 this year. 

In a White House speech on Wednesday (local time), Mr Biden said there was little justification for the US's continued military engagement in Afghanistan, adding it was time to end the "forever war" launched in 2001.

"I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats," Mr Biden said. 

There are roughly 7,000 NATO forces still in Afghanistan in addition to the remaining 2,500 US troops.

Australia's remaining military personnel in Afghanistan are soon expected to leave alongside their NATO-led coalition colleagues, in coordination with the withdrawal decision. 

And according to the Defence Department, "Australia currently contributes around 80 defence personnel in Afghanistan" as part of Operation HIGHROAD.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed his government had been discussing withdrawal plans with the United States and other allies.

"Without going into national security matters you can be assured that the Australian government has been working closely with our American partners and allies on these issues," Mr Morrison said.

Military insiders believe Australia will continue to provide aid to the war-ravaged country through defence cooperation programs, but the federal government will no longer provide any "in-country support".

'Now it is time to bring our forces home'

Australian special forces soldiers in Afghanistan
The operation in Afghanistan began after the September 11 attacks in 2001.(

File photo: Defence Department

)

While President Biden's decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September breaks a May 1 withdrawal deadline set by the Trump Administration, it leaves no room for additional extensions. 

The current withdrawal plan sets a firm end date on two decades of war that has seen more than 2,200 US troops killed, 20,000 wounded and cost as much as $US1 trillion ($1.3 trillion). 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he expected the allies to withdraw together but maintained that neither the US nor NATO would abandon the country despite the impending exodus of troops.

Graph displaying numbers of US troops in Afghanistan
US troop numbers have gradually decreased from a high in the early 2010s.(

ABC News

)

He and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin were meeting senior officials from the alliance's 30 members on Wednesday to discuss NATO's future presence in Afghanistan in light of Washington's announcement. 

"Together, we went into Afghanistan to deal with those who attacked us and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack any of us," Mr Blinken said.

You view a man of Caucasian descent with grey hair wearing a navy suit and blue tie while talking at a lectern.
Mr Blinken is meeting with US allies to discuss the exit plan.(

AP: Carolyn Kaster

)

There is a summit planned about Afghanistan starting on April 24 in Istanbul that is due to include the United Nations and Qatar.

The Taliban, ousted from power in 2001 by US-led forces, said it would not take part in any meetings that would make decisions about Afghanistan until all foreign forces had left the country.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Wednesday called on Washington to stick with the deadline established by the Trump Administration.

"If the agreement is committed to, the remaining problems will also be solved," Mr Mujahid wrote on Twitter.

"If the agreement is not committed to … the problems will certainly increase."

Withdrawal will diminish intelligence capabilities, CIA director says

An Afghan soldier directs a vehicle to stop at a checkpoint.
Security experts say Afghan institutions are not equipped to adequately fend off threats.(

AP: Massoud Hossaini

)

Some analysts said the departure plan appeared to surrender Afghanistan to an uncertain fate.

"There is no good way that the US can withdraw from Afghanistan", said Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.

While successive US presidents have sought to extricate themselves from Afghanistan, these hopes were confounded by concerns about Afghan security forces, endemic corruption in Afghanistan and the resiliency of a Taliban insurgency that enjoyed safe haven across the border in Pakistan.

US officials can claim to have decimated terror group Al Qaeda's core leadership in the region years ago, including tracking down and killing the group's leader Osama bin Laden in neighbouring Pakistan in 2011.

But CIA Director William Burns said the withdrawal would "diminish" the US's ability to collect intelligence and act on threats in the region, where ties between the Taliban and Al Qaeda still remain. 

"When the time comes for the US military to withdraw, the government's ability to collect and act on threats will diminish. That's simply a fact," he told the US Senate Intelligence Committee. 

The Biden Administration will keep "intelligence and military capabilities" in the region to deal with any emerging threats, though Al Qaeda "does not currently possess" the capability for attacks on the continental US, a senior administration official said.

'An unknown future awaits us' 

Woman cheers at Afghanistan music festival
The war has also brought about partial liberalisation in some quarters of Afghan society. (

Reuters: Ahmad Masood

)

There is also concern over the impact a withdrawal would have on human rights in Afghanistan given the gains, particularly for women and girls, during the past two decades.

"I am worried about my future," said Wida Saghar, a writer and women's rights activist in Kabul.

"An unknown future awaits us, when foreign forces leave and the civil war intensifies … then who will think about women's rights? Who will care about us?"

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2021-04-14 13:24:10Z
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