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U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is up to 20% complete amid Gaza violence

People and members of the Palestinian Civil Defense extinguish a fire in a paint warehouse that was hit by an Israeli artillery shell on eastern Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI
People and members of the Palestinian Civil Defense extinguish a fire in a paint warehouse that was hit by an Israeli artillery shell on eastern Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Tuesday. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo

May 18 (UPI) -- U.S. forces withdrawal from Afghanistan is up to 20% complete, U.S. Central Command said in an update Tuesday, amid Israel-Hamas violence in Gaza.

President Joe Biden announced plans last month to start withdrawing U.S. military forces from Afghanistan on May 1 with full withdrawal of an estimated 2,500 troops by Sept. 11, marking the end of America's longest war and 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that prompted the war in Afghanistan.

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Since then, the U.S. Department of Defense has directed the removal of approximately 115 loads of equipment on C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft and turned over more than 5,000 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction, U.S. Central Command said in a weekly update.

The United States also officially handed over five facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense, according to the update, and estimates that between 13% and 20% of the withdrawal process is complete.

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that escalating violence entering its second week between Israel and Hamas in Gaza will not impact the full troop withdrawal by the Sept. 11 deadline.

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Biden voiced his support for a cease-fire on a call Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but a readout of the call shows he did not call for Israel to immediately halt its airstrikes.

The U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan also comes after escalating violence with the full withdrawal deadline set by Biden's predecessor pushed back four months. Biden said in March it would be "hard to meet" former President Donald Trump's May 1 deadline, citing "tactical reasons" for the four-month delay.

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Among the recent attacks, a bombing outside Sayed Ul-Shuhada high school in Afghan's capital Kabul on May 8, killed at least 90 people and injured, many who were teenage girls leaving class, The New York Times reported.

An Interior Ministry spokesman told The Times more than 100 people were also injured in the bombing.

The Taliban denied responsibility and condemned the attack on social media, but the presidential palace still blamed the killings on the Taliban in a statement to The Times.

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At least 140 pro-government forces and 44 civilians were killed from the eve of U.S. troop withdrawal on April 30-May 6, the highest death toll in a single week since October, according to a Times analysis. From May 7-13, at least 107 pro-government forces and 126 civilians were killed in Afghanistan.

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Last year, the Trump administration signed a historic peace deal to end the war in Afghanistan and set a May 1 deadline for complete withdrawal, but the defense spending bill required additional opinion from other countries before reducing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It also allowed Congress to withhold funds for troop reduction in Afghanistan until the Pentagon explained how the change could impact U.S. security.

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