Afghanistan’s military “will certainly collapse” if the U.S. does not continue to support it following a withdrawal from the country, the top U.S. general in the Middle East told Congress on Thursday.
“My concern is the Afghans’ ability to hold ground” without U.S. aid, General Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said during testimony on plans to withdraw the U.S. military. McKenzie added that “it is a matter of great concern to me whether or not the future government of Afghanistan will be able to” protect the U.S. embassy in Kabul “once we leave.”
“We’re certainly going to try to do everything we can from distant locations to assist the Afghans as they maintain the aircraft and other platforms that will be essential for the fight ahead of them,” McKenzie said in a separate press conference on Thursday. “The one thing I can tell you is, we’re not going to be there on the ground with them.”
President Biden announced last week that he would remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” Biden said in a speech, adding that the September 11 attacks “cannot explain” why U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan 20 years later.
There are officially about 2,500 U.S. soldiers in the country, however the actual number is about 3,500, the Washington Post reported last week.