The US has begun the process to remove its military armaments from Afghanistan as it prepares to withdraw all of its forces from the war-torn country, according to a report published on Friday.
US President Joe Biden set a Sept. 11 deadline for the process to be completed after 20 years of conflict, and several senior officials have said the drawdown could be completed well before that date.
In the interim, the Pentagon has authorized the deployment of hundreds of US forces to the region tasked with ensuring the safety of American troops during the process, three defense officials told CNN.
The officials said that at present the focus of the withdrawal is on removing unneeded equipment from the country or transferring it to Afghan forces, and destroying “obsolete” equipment.
The process to bring the roughly 2,500 US forces in the country down to zero will not begin “for a few weeks,” an official told CNN. The US will “retain our ability to defend the force and provide support” to Afghan counterparts, the official added.
The US has deployed an aircraft carrier to the region in order to quickly deploy warplanes in the event that American troops come under attack from the Taliban, according to CNN.
The hardline group has demanded US troops leave the country by a May deadline it brokered with former US President Donald Trump. But Biden long cast skepticism on his ability to hit that timeline, saying before he announced the September withdraw date last week that it would be difficult to achieve.
At its peak, there were an estimated 130,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.