Pentagon officials confirmed on Tuesday that the United States military will transfer use of five military bases in Afghanistan to local forces, following through on its commitment to reduce military presence in Afghanistan.
“U.S. military presence in Afghanistan remains focused on capabilities- not numbers. We maintain the capabilities and authorities necessary to protect ourselves, our Allies and partners, and US national interests,” said Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman in a statement.
President Trump signed an accord with the Taliban in February that prescribed 135 days for the U.S. to reduce troops from 12,000 to 8,600 and abandon five military bases. Troop presence should be reduced to zero by April 2021 in exchange for the Taliban’s promise to prohibit terrorist behavior directed against the U.S. on Afghan soil.
Monday marked day 136 after the deal was implemented.
As we look to the next phase of implementation under the Agreement, our approach will remain conditions based. We will press for completion of prisoner releases, reduction of violence, complete delivery on CT commitments & start of & progress in intra-Afghan negotiations.— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) July 14, 2020
“We will continue to execute our counterterrorism mission while simultaneously supporting the 38-nation NATO Resolute Support Train, Advise, Assist mission and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) as they work to secure peace in the country,” Hoffman said.
Afghan news outlet Tolo reported that the bases closed are in Helmand, Uruzgan, Paktika and Laghman provinces.
In a visit to Afghanistan, a U.S. forces spokesman on Tuesday said that the U.S. continues “our counter terror fight against groups like ISIS (Daesh) and al-Qaeda while also providing training, funding and supplies to ANDSF through the NATO RS mission,” Tolo reports.
While the United States expected a reduction in terrorism following implementation of the agreement, data from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction quarterly report indicates an increase in violence against the ANDSF.
On Monday, a car exploded in front of the National Directorate of Security compound in Samangan. The fire and ensuing gunfight wounded 63 and killed 14, including three suicide attackers.
“Violence has been high, especially in recent days & week,” said Khalilzad. “The Taliban's attack today in a provincial capital contradicts their commitment to reduce violence until a permanent ceasefire is reached in intra-Afghan talks.”
Afghanistan’s government blames the Taliban’s lack of cooperation for increasing violence.
“Their key responsibility was a significant reduction in violence and an 'unofficial' ceasefire. Another responsibility of theirs was to cut their ties with all terrorist groups, but you saw in recent reports by the UN and US that this has not happened so far,” presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said. “A big role in the peace process is on the Taliban's shoulders.”
According to Tolo, government data reports that Taliban conducted 5,943 attacks between January 21 and June 17, while Afghan and foreign forces conducted 1,569 counteroperations.
University of Maryland's National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses found that in 2019, nearly 8,500 terrorist attacks were perpetrated worldwide, with Taliban attacks in Afghanistan accounting for 21 percent of the total.
The United States plans to reorient its role in Afghanistan from one of defense to one of development. Khalilzad has alluded to possible collaboration with interested parties to facilitate economic projects in the war-torn region.