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SECDEF Austin orders reinforcements ahead of Afghanistan withdrawal

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III arrives at Resolute Support Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 21. Austin has ordered an increased military presence in the region to protect troops as they withdraw. File photo by Lisa Ferdinando/DoD/UPI
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III arrives at Resolute Support Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 21. Austin has ordered an increased military presence in the region to protect troops as they withdraw. File photo by Lisa Ferdinando/DoD/UPI | License Photo

April 24 (UPI) -- The Department of Defense has ordered long-range bombers and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier to help provide security for U.S. troops as the United States withdraws from Afghanistan.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday that two B-52 bombers have already arrived in the region, and that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has extended the mission of the Eisenhower.

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"The secretary has been clear we have to assume -- and it would be foolhardy and imprudent not to assume -- that there could be resistance and opposition to the drawdown by the Taliban given their staunch rhetoric," Kirby said, promising a "safe, orderly, deliberate and responsible withdrawal."

Kirby also said the Pentagon may send additional ground forces into the country temporarily for force protection and logistics support.

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Earlier this month President Joe Biden announced he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, a plan that NATO's 30-member states agreed to following a meeting with U.S. military and foreign relations leaders.

The United States and the Taliban had previously agreed to a May 1 deadline for withdrawing from the country and in November then-Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by Jan. 15.

Before setting the Sept. 11 deadline Biden said the May 1 deadline would be "hard to meet" for tactical reasons.

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The New York Times reported earlier this week that Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of Central Command, requested the carrier be deployed to provide security for U.S. troops as they withdraw from Afghanistan.

The Eisenhower made a port visit to Oman in mid-April after launching airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group's position in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea in March.

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