The Pentagon is touting that it's already successfully withdrawn more than half of American forces from Afghanistan, which means it's on a withdraw pace significantly ahead of Biden's Sept. 11 exit deadline.
"U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimates that we have completed greater than 50% of the entire retrograde process," the command announced Tuesday. And in terms of the massive logistical feat of removing military hardware after a two-decade occupation and build-up of bases, the military statement added that it's removed the equivalent of approximately 500 C-17 planeloads of material while also removing 13,000 pieces of equipment.
Prior to the ordered drawdown which the White House announced in April there were at least 2,500 US troops amid a broader 10,000 member NATO force. The Taliban had seen the change as reneging on the Trump deal which had set the full pullout deadline for May 1st, which has come and gone.
While so far there has not been the predicted large-scale assaults on remaining US troops and bases, there have been hundreds of Taliban attacks on Afghan national forces and civilians across the country...
According to The Wall Street Journal this week, US intelligence says the Taliban is carefully prepping for the moment the US mission in the country is officially over:
The Taliban are encircling Afghan police and army positions and encroaching on government-held territory, positioning themselves for large-scale offensives against major population centers while waiting for the last American troops to depart Afghanistan.
The insurgents are pushing their advantage on the battlefield ahead of a full U.S. exit, even as they continue peace talks with the Afghan government in Doha, Qatar.
This brings up the inevitable question of "US footprint" even after the Pentagon departure. There's been recent reports that military leaders are mulling the possibility of leaving 600 Marines to permanently guard the sprawling US embassy in Kabul.
The Associated Press meanwhile cited CENTCOM chief Gen. Frank McKenzie, who said he's preparing to present Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin with a "range of options" for protection of the embassy, which could include "counterterrorism" operations elsewhere in the country - the latter which sounds a lot like a continuing presence and not in truth an exit.
This remnant security "footprint" reportedly could be a few hundred to as high as 1,000 according to the AP - which again presents the question of whether this actually then would qualify as an "exit". Certainly the Taliban and other terror groups are unlikely to see it as such.