Breaking: Major airfield comes under attack as US formally begins withdrawing from Afghanistan
A major international airfield in Afghanistan has come under attack as the United States officially begins pulling out its troops from the country in what President Joe Biden has called ending “the forever war.”
The final phase of ending America’s 20-year invasion of Afghanistan was formally launched Saturday.
The remaining US and NATO forces — about 2,500-3,500 US troops and about 7,000 NATO soldiers, will leave Afghanistan by the end of summer.
Meanwhile, Sonny Leggett, the US military spokesman in Afghanistan, confirmed in a tweet on Sunday that “Kandahar Airfield received ineffective indirect fire this afternoon,” adding the attack had caused no human or material losses.
Police Chief of Kandahar Sharifullah Sartayib confirmed the attack on the airfield, formerly called Kandahar International Airport, saying two rockets were fired but there was no damage to the airfield.
Four other rockets, he said, had been founded and defused in the city of Arghistan, which were also ready to launch at targets at the airport.
The attack came after the Pentagon formally began the process of withdrawing the last American and NATO troops from Afghan soil on Saturday.
Officials have said the withdrawal, which is the final phase of ending the US presence in Afghanistan after 20 years, will be completed by September 11.
Under an agreement that was reached between the Taliban and the administration of former president Donald Trump in Qatar last year, foreign forces were to have left Afghanistan by Saturday (May 1).
Washington pledged to withdraw its forces in exchange for the Taliban cutting all ties with al-Qaeda and agreeing to begin negotiations with Kabul toward a ceasefire and peace accord.
The Taliban, meanwhile, have warned they are no longer bound by any agreement not to target international forces.
Taliban Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the passing of the May 1 deadline for a complete withdrawal “opened the way for” the militants to take every counteraction they deem appropriate against foreign forces in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has also ramped up security in the capital, Kabul, as the city braces for a possible reaction from the Taliban.
Observers have already warned that the withdrawal of US forces will intensify violence in Afghanistan in the absence of a peace deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, however, said his government forces are fully capable of keeping militants at bay.
He noted that the withdrawal of US and NATO forces will remove any pretext for the Taliban to continue launching attacks.
“Who are you killing? What are you destroying? Your pretext of fighting the foreigners is now over,” Ghani said.
The president also offered a share in power to the Taliban.
Afghanistan has seen a flare up in violence in recent weeks.
A huge bomb blast hit the eastern province of Logar on Friday evening, killing at least 27 people.
No group has claimed responsibility, but officials quickly accused the Taliban of being behind the attack.