Most European troops exit Afghanistan quietly after 20 years
On Wednesday, Germany and Italy declared their operations in Afghanistan complete, while Poland's final troops came home, bringing their deployments to a low-key close nearly two decades after the first Western forces arrived in Afghanistan. The majority of European troops have already left Afghanistan, discreetly departing months before the US-led operation was set to finish an anticlimactic finale to the "forever war" that threatens to plunge the nation into civil conflict. According to announcements analysed by The Associated Press from several countries, the majority of European troops have now left with little fanfare, in stark contrast to the dramatic and public show of force and unity when NATO allies lined up to support the US invasion to rid the country of al-Qaida following the Sept. 11 attacks. In the decades that followed, the battle shifted from one objective to the next. The administration of former US President George W. Bush shied away from nation-building, while the United Nations argued for a small footprint. However, as time passed, NATO and US forces began to play a larger role in creating Afghanistan's National Security and Defense Forces as well as training police. The US and NATO military forces totaled over 150,000 at the height of the conflict. In April, NATO decided to remove its roughly 7,000 non-American soldiers from Afghanistan to coincide with US President Joe Biden's plan to withdraw all American troops from the country on May 1. Biden set a timetable for the departure of US forces of September 11th. However, American officials have lately stated that the withdrawal would most certainly be finished by July 4 ― and several allies have moved to end their own presence by that date as well. NATO refused to say how many countries are still sending soldiers to the Resolute Support operation on Wednesday. However, according to 19 government releases, more over 4,800 non-American personnel had gone. The US has declined to provide military numbers, although between 2,500 and 3,500 troops were deployed when Biden announced the final departure. As of February, 832,000 American military had served in Afghanistan, with another 25,100 Defense Department civilians also serving there. The US has likewise declined to provide a firm deadline for its departure. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki only stated on Wednesday that the US pullout is “on the president's timetable... which is to get our soldiers out of Afghanistan by September while maintaining a diplomatic presence on the ground.” Late Tuesday, Germany declared the end of its almost two-decade mission in a statement and a flurry of tweets from its defence minister, soon after the final plane carrying its troops departed Afghan airspace. On Wednesday afternoon, three transport planes landed at the Wunstorf air station in northern Germany. The German withdrawal occurred amid a flurry of European departures. Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak met Poland's final leaving troops on Wednesday. Over the last two decades, 33,000 Polish servicemen have served in Afghanistan.