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US to keep pressure on IS, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: CENTCOM

Washington: Kenneth McKenzie, Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), has said that Washington will seek to “keep pressure” on the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda terror groups in Afghanistan, a media report said.

“We will still do everything we can to keep pressure on the IS and Al Qaeda, from our over-the-horizon locations,” TOLO News quoted McKenzie as saying in an interview with Military Times.

Regarding a recent UN report warning that the Taliban appeared poised to take back control of Afghanistan, McKenzie said: “We still intend to support the Afghan military from just over the horizon. We’re still going to support them with funding.

“We’re going to try very hard to support the Afghan air force over the horizon; some things will come out of the country to be worked on.

“I don’t want to minimize this, because I think they’re going to be tested, but we will continue to support them, just not in the way we are supporting them now.”

Asked if the US would provide any combat support to Afghan forces if major cities such as Kabul were at risk of being overrun, McKenzie said: “Those are actually policy decisions, not military decisions. Right now what we’re planning to do after we withdraw is keep pressure on Al Qaeda and IS, and that would be what we’d be doing, going back into Afghanistan.”

The withdrawal of international troops is due to be completed by September 11 at the latest.

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Afghan troop withdrawal: Hillary warns of ‘huge consequences’

Washington: Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned of “huge consequences” of President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.

She told CNN there was a risk the Taliban – the Islamist group ousted in 2001 by the US-led invasion – could retake control.

The US aims to complete the withdrawal by September 11.

However, violence against Afghans has escalated starkly in recent weeks, with more than a hundred Afghan security force personnel killed.

On the eve of the previously agreed withdrawal deadline, a huge blast in eastern Logar killed dozens as they broke their fast during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. It was not clear who was behind the attack.

“This is what we call a wicked problem,” Clinton told CNN. “There are consequences both foreseen and unintended of staying and of leaving,” she said.

Under the Trump administration’s February 2020 deal with the Taliban, foreign forces were to withdraw from the country by May 1 while the Taliban held off on attacking foreign troops and bases.

But President Biden announced last month after reviewing the situation that forces would stay in the country for months beyond May, withdrawing by Sept. 11.

At least 2,500 US troops are currently deployed as part of the 9,600-strong Nato Afghan mission.

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Won’t leave Afghanistan before time is right: NATO chief

New Delhi: The Secretary-General of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance does not intend to withdraw troops from Afghanistan “before the time is right”.

“While no ally wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, we will not leave before the time is right,” Stoltenberg said during a media conference.

“Ministers will continue to assess the situation on the ground and monitor developments very closely”, Stoltenberg added.

Whether the troops will continue to operate in Afghanistan depends on Biden’s rejection or acceptance of the May deadline which requires pulling out all foreign forces.

US President Biden’s administration claims that it is currently reviewing the deal.

The Pentagon has also accused the Taliban of failing to fulfill its promises, which include reduction of attacks and severing ties with groups like Al-Qaeda. Even then, no concrete announcement on the future of deployment is expected this week.

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