By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (May 25, 2021) -- The U.S. plans to be completely out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021. U.S. Central Command announced today they estimate the withdrawal is now somewhere between 16% and 25% complete.
Already, the command says, approximately 160 C-17 loads of materiel and equipment have left Afghanistan. Additionally, more than 10,000 pieces of military equipment have been turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency.
U.S.-controlled installations in Afghanistan must also be returned to the Afghan Defense Ministry, and so far, five installations have been handed back.
After 20 years, the U.S. is leaving Afghanistan because the mission there is complete, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby during a press briefing today at the Pentagon.
"The president has been very clear that our troops accomplished the mission for which they were sent to Afghanistan," Kirby said. "That was to prevent the country from being used as a safe haven for terrorist attacks on our homeland, and there hasn't been another attack on the homeland emanating from Afghanistan since 9/11. So the president believes the mission has been completed."
Now, Kirby said, there is a new mission: withdrawal from Afghanistan and development of a new relationship with the government of Afghanistan and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
The United States will create a "new bilateral relationship with Afghanistan across the government: diplomatically, economically, politically and certainly from a security perspective," Kirby said. "Our relationship with Afghan National Defense and Security Forces will continue, but it will continue in a different way."
The U.S. is not leaving the Centcom region outright, however. There are still threats in the region, and Kirby said the U.S. will be ready to meet those threats by strengthening existing "over-the-horizon" capabilities there and growing new ones.
Kirby said the U.S. already has some over-the-horizon capacity in the region, by virtue of forces already stationed there and long-range capabilities that are outside the region.
"We know we need to think through this more deliberately and more thoughtfully going forward as we get closer to completing the withdrawal, and we're working on that," he said.