“If we withdraw and no deal was made with the Taliban, I think the government of Afghanistan is going to be in for a very stiff fight to retain possession of towns and cities,” said General Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command.
This comes after McKenzie met with President Ashraf Ghani this week in Kabul.
“The two sides discussed the peace process, current security situation, and support to the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF),” the Presidential Palace (ARG) said in a statement.
The two sides also expressed concerns over the alarming violence across the country, the statement added.
Resolute Support commander General Scott Miller meanwhile warned that a U.S. withdrawal would leave the Afghan armed forces without vital support, especially for its fledgling air force, which relies on contractors to maintain its planes and helicopters.
“When you start talking about removing our presence … certain things like air, air support and maintenance of that air support becomes more and more problematic,” Miller was quoted by the LA Times as having said.
The Taliban has also carried out a large number of assassinations targeting activists, journalists and government officials, in recent months.
On this issue, Miller the Taliban is insistent that the U.S. abide by the May 1 deadline for leaving, he said.
“They are using violence and they are trying to put themselves in a position, if the things they want are not met … to force decisions in the political space,” Miller said in an interview.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has not decided yet on whether to extend troop presence in Afghanistan or withdraw by May 1 as per the US-Taliban deal which was signed in February last year.
According to the deal, the US has reduced its troops to 2,500 but in a report Sunday, the New York Times reported that there are in fact more American troops on the ground than the reported 2,500.
The New York Times reported that officials, both American and Afghan, have said the number is actually around 3,500. That’s 1,000 more than Washington has disclosed.
According to the NYT, one official said the “cloudy accounting” around troops numbers results from some Special Forces units having been put “off the books”.
According to him, the presence of some temporary and transitioning units also accounted for the additional troops.
A second official meanwhile told the NYT that these troops include Joint Special Operations Command units, some of them elite Army Rangers, who work under both the Pentagon and the CIA while deployed to Afghanistan.
Having more troops in a country than the Defense Department officially acknowledges is common practice, the NYT reported.
According to the report, the United States often details military troops to the CIA or other agencies, declares that information “classified” and refuses to publicly acknowledge their presence.