The US yesterday formally began withdrawing its last troops from Afghanistan, bringing its longest war nearer to an end, but also heralding an uncertain future for a country in the tightening grip of an emboldened Taliban.
US officials on the ground have said that the withdrawal was already a work in progress — and yesterday was just a continuation — but Washington has made an issue of the May 1 date, because it was a deadline agreed with the Taliban last year to complete the pullout.
The skies above Kabul and nearby Bagram airbase have been buzzing with more US helicopter activity than usual, following the start on Thursday of a concurrent NATO withdrawal.
Afghan security forces were on high alert yesterday for any possible attacks on retreating US troops.
“The Americans will formally begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan starting May 1 and the Taliban might increase the violence,” Acting Afghan Minister of the Interior Hayatullah Hayat told top police commanders, according to an audio clip given to reporters.
Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said the Taliban “may choose war” in an attempt to grab power after US troops fully exit, but security forces are ready to face the insurgents. The prospect of an end to the US presence after 20 years comes despite fighting raging across the countryside in the absence of a peace deal.
A stark reminder of what remains came late on Friday, with a truck bomb in Pul-e-Alam, south of the capital, killing at least 24 people and wounding 110 more.
US President Joe Biden is determined to end what he called “the forever war,” announcing last month that the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 US forces would be complete by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Taliban said the US troop withdrawal was to be completed by yesterday as agreed in last year’s accord with Washington, and it was a “clear violation” that the troops were not fully out.
“This in principle opens the way for our mujahidin to take appropriate action against the invading forces,” Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said, adding that the group is awaiting orders from its leaders.
Since the US withdrawal deal was struck the Taliban has not directly engaged foreign troops, but insurgents have mercilessly attacked government forces in the countryside and waged a terror campaign in urban areas.
The exit of US forces has only exacerbated the fear felt by ordinary Afghans.
“Everyone is scared that we might go back to the dark days of the Taliban era,” said Mena Nowrozi, who works at a private radio station in Kabul. “The Taliban are still the same; they have not changed.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insists that government forces — which for months have carried out most of the ground fighting against the Taliban — are “fully capable” of keeping the insurgents at bay.
VITAL INDUSTRY: A war in the Strait would be a catastrophe, as Taiwan ‘lies at the heart’ of the world’s semiconductor industry, the magazine’s report said The government yesterday welcomed international attention on Taiwan’s security, saying that China is to blame for threatening regional stability, after a report by The Economist called Taiwan “the most dangerous place on Earth.” The report is featured on the cover of the magazine’s latest issue, which depicts the nation as the epicenter of a US-China rivalry. The cover shows Taiwan in a radar display with dots crossing the Taiwan Strait accompanied by a Chinese flag and dots nearing the east coast with a US flag. The US maintains a “one China” policy, while maintaining relations with Taiwan, but such “strategic ambiguity is breaking
HIGH-RISK GROUP: After the latest outbreak, family members of workers exposed to infection would from tomorrow be eligible for government-funded vaccines The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported four local COVID-19 cases: three family members of an infected worker at a quarantine hotel and a family member of an infected pilot. The new cases bring the number of infections involving China Airlines Ltd (中華航空) pilots and the Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport hotel, where many of the airline’s crew members quarantined, to 24. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said three of them are the husband, son and daughter of case No. 1,129, a woman in her 60s, who works at the hotel. The son is in
NEXT STEP? The contract chipmaker said it would decide whether to add more plants based on operation efficiency, cost economics and demand Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) is planning to build several more chipmaking fabs in the US state of Arizona beyond the one already planned, three people familiar with the matter said. TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, announced in May last year that it would build a US$12 billion fab in Arizona. The 12-inch wafer fab in Phoenix is expected to start mass production in 2024, the Investment Commission said in December, when it approved the plan. Three sources familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, said that up
VIRUS CURBS: Visiting people staying at healthcare and long-term care facilities in Taipei, New Taipei City and Taoyuan is banned until May 17, the CECC announced The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday banned visits to patients or residents at healthcare and long-term care facilities in three cities until May 17. It also reported six imported cases of COVID-19 and two cases with unclear infection sources. As the number of locally transmitted cases rises, some of whom have visited many places in Taipei, New Taipei City and Taoyuan, enhanced disease prevention measures have to be implemented in the three cities, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center. “Visiting people staying at healthcare and long-term care facilities in Taipei, New Taipei City and