President Joe Biden’s administration has asked three Central Asian nations to take in Afghan citizens who assisted U.S. and coalition military forces in Afghanistan and could now face reprisals from the Taliban as troops withdraw from the country, Bloomberg reported Thursday evening.
Specifically, Biden has called on Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to temporarily take in roughly 9,000 such Afghans, according to Bloomberg. The move is yet another sign that U.S. defense officials expect the Afghan government to fall to Taliban forces within a year of the U.S. and NATO withdrawal. (RELATED: Taliban Celebrates ‘Jihadist’ Victory As US Reportedly Plans To Hand Over Largest Base In Afghanistan To Afghan Forces)
Scoop: Biden admin, seeking a solution for Afghan citizens who worked closely with US during war and will be vulnerable to Taliban reprisal after US troops exit, has asked 3 nations to temporarily house some of them, sources tell @nwadhams @PeterMartin_PCM and me. Story out soon. https://t.co/YFtNxdNQAE
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) July 2, 2021
The request from the Biden administration coincides with the U.S. military’s Thursday withdrawal from Bagram Air Base, which for 20 years has been America’s center of military operations in the region. Afghan government forces have taken over the base and plan to continue using it to combat the Taliban.
“All Coalition and American troops departed Bagram Air Base last night,” Fawad Aman, a deputy spokesman for Afghanistan’s defense ministry, told Bloomberg. “The base was handed over. [Afghan government forces] will protect the base and use it to combat terrorism.”
The withdrawl from Bagram was poorly coordinated with local leaders according to the Afghan government, however, with some looters entering the base before security forces assumed control.
“They were stopped and some have been arrested and the rest have been cleared from the base,” Afghanistan’s district administrator for Bagram, Darwaish Raufi, told The Associated Press. “Unfortunately the Americans left without any coordination with Bagram district officials or the governor’s office. Right now our Afghan security forces are in control both inside and outside of the base.”
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan began in earnest under former President Donald Trump. Trump’s State Department signed a peace agreement with the Taliban in February 2020, vowing to withdraw all troops by May 2021. Biden pushed back that deadline, citing turmoil in the transfer of administrations between he and Trump, announcing that U.S. troops would withdraw by September 11, 2021. The U.S. is on track to withdraw well ahead of that date, however.