Islamabad – Staff Reporter:
United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke by phone with Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and discussed the drawdown in Afghanistan.
Under a 2020 agreement reached by the Trump administration, the Taliban required the departure by May 1 of all US troops and non-diplomatic civilian personnel.
President Joe Biden delayed the pullout while his administration reviewed the agreement and Afghanistan policy. He decided earlier this month to begin the withdrawal and complete it by September 11, the anniversary of Al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks on the United States that triggered the US-led invasion that year.
“During the call, Secretary Austin reaffirmed the importance of the US – Pakistan bilateral relationship and expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s support for Afghanistan Peace Negotiations,” a statement by the US department of defense said. “Secretary Austin and General Bajwa also discussed the drawdown in Afghanistan.”
The statement added: “Secretary Austin and General Bajwa discussed the importance of regional stability and the desire for the United States and Pakistan to continue working together on shared goals and objectives in the region.”
The departure of thousands of American contractors, especially those serving the Afghan security forces, has raised concerns among some US and Pakistani officials about the ability of the Afghan government and military to sustain critical functions. Officials worry the departure would cede control to the Taliban, expressing concerns about rights, the potential for civil war and whether Afghanistan would again become a refuge for militants.