US Military Presence in Afghanistan Much Larger Than Disclosed
By Staff, Agencies
US officials have said the real number of American forces in Afghanistan is much higher than the public has been led to believe as the Biden administration claims to follow through with a troop withdrawal as part of a US deal with the Taliban, according to US media.
It turned out that number is actually around 3,500 US forces, which is one thousand more troops in the war-wracked country than the Pentagon had claimed, the New York Times reported, citing US, European and Afghan officials.
The report said this figure does not accurately represent how many US boots are actually on the ground in Afghanistan.
In addition to the 3,500 US troops, there are some 7,000 NATO and allied troops still in Afghanistan who depend on Americans for logistics and force protection.
The revelation now adds more complexity to a debate at the White House over whether to stick with the deal, struck by the Trump administration and the Taliban over a year ago, that called for complete withdrawal of American forces by May 1.
Senior US official said some Special Operations forces having been put “off the books,” as well as some temporary and transitioning units.
These troops include Joint Special Operations Command units, some of them elite Army Rangers, who work under both the CIA and the Pentagon in Afghanistan.
US troop numbers in Afghanistan have declined from 12,000 to the current number since last year under the Trump administration.
Some in the Pentagon have, however, staunchly opposed the drop as they long claimed that at least 8,600 US troops are needed to continue training operations and counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan, the Times said.
A review of the US-Taliban deal that was submitted to US lawmakers last month concluded that 4,500 American troops would be necessary in order to “secure US interests” in Afghanistan.
It is not yet clear whether President Joe Biden’s administration will honor the Trump-Taliban deal, ending America’s longest war after more than 19 years.
The Washington Post reported on Saturday that many US officials thought it was unlikely that all American forces would leave Afghanistan by May.
Members of the US Congress have repeatedly called for an increase in troops if the United States decides to stay past.