US to maintain presence in Afghanistan after troop withdrawal

Nur-Sultan, Jun 13 (EFE).- The United States will maintain its presence in Afghanistan after withdrawing its troops to help in the fight against violence and terrorism in Central Asia, US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad said Sunday.

“Although the military contingent is withdrawing, we will remain in Afghanistan to support it with advice in the future on how to deal with terrorism and the various ways to combat this problem,” the diplomat said at a press conference held in Kazakhstan’s capital of Nur-Sultan.

The US envoy for peace in Afghanistan added that Washington is currently engaged in a “positive and hopeful” dialogue with the countries of the region.

Khalilzad pointed out that the US hopes to “mitigate the threat” related to the withdrawal of its troops from the country, which requires “a strong government, capable of controlling its territory and order, something that could only happen after an agreement between the government and the Taliban.”

“We are convinced that peace can only be achieved and preserved through the political path of dialogue and not through military confrontation,” he said, adding that as long as there is no agreement between the government and the Taliban, the Biden administration will “adjust its counter-terrorism capabilities.”

The ambassador further noted that Washington will also cooperate with countries in the Central Asian region, “including Kazakhstan,” to strengthen their counterterrorism potential in the face of the persistent threat from the Islamic State (IS).

Khalilzad said the US is also working closely with Russia, China and Pakistan in the interests of achieving peace in Afghanistan.

The US military is tasked with withdrawing 2,500 troops, 16,000 civilian contractors and hundreds of tons of equipment that were inside Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, which marks the 20th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.

The war in Afghanistan began in October 2001 with the mission of hunting down Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden – the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks and who was killed in a US operation in Pakistan in 2011 – and to punish the Taliban, who had harbored him.

Over the past almost two decades, the war in Afghanistan has taken the lives of between 35,000 and 40,000 Afghan civilians and some 2,300 US soldiers, a Brown University research project has reported.

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