Biden: US Mission in Afghanistan to End August 31

U.S. President Joe Biden says the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan will end on August 31.
 
Biden’s remarks at the White House Thursday came after he and Vice President Kamala Harris met with national security leaders for an update on the pullout.
 
On Tuesday, the U.S. military announced the withdrawal process was more than 90% complete. Officials have said the entire process is expected to finish by late August. NATO troops also are following suit, and most of them already have left the country.White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday the United States supports diplomatic negotiations to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan, and that after the military withdrawal it intends to have diplomatic and humanitarian presences in the country.
 
“One of the reasons that the president made the decision he did is because he does not feel there’s a military solution for a 20-year war,” Psaki said.
 
Taliban fighters have made rapid territorial advances across Afghanistan since May 1, when the United States and NATO allies formally began withdrawing their last remaining troops from the country.The insurgents have since overrun at least 150 of Afghanistan’s more than 400 districts.An Afghan army soldier walks past Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, MRAP, that were left after the American military left Bagram air base, in Parwan province north of Kabul, Afghanistan, July 5, 2021.Authorities in Afghanistan said Wednesday pro-government forces had pushed back Taliban insurgents from parts of a northwestern city and regained control of official buildings after hours of fierce clashes.Fighting erupted in parts of Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Badghis province, after the Taliban assaulted it overnight from multiple directions. Residents and officials said insurgent fighters pushed their way into the city, taking over key security installations, including provincial police headquarters, and freeing about 600 inmates from the central prison.Video footage released by the Taliban showed the prisoners escaping from the facility and insurgent fighters riding motorbikes moving into different parts of the city.Provincial Governor Hessamuddin Shams told VOA the Taliban captured all the districts around Qala-e-Naw in recent days, enabling them to attack the provincial capital.The foreign troop exit is the outcome of a peace deal negotiated by Washington with the Taliban in February 2020 under then-U.S. President Donald Trump. It requires the insurgents to fight terrorism on Afghan soil and negotiate a political peace deal with the Kabul government.However, the U.S.-brokered intra-Afghan peace negotiations have moved slowly since they started last September in Qatar and have met with little success.
 
American troops vacated Bagram Air Base, the largest such facility in Afghanistan, in the middle of the night last Thursday, prompting criticism and complaints by Afghan commanders they were kept in the dark about the departure plans.U.S. officials maintain the transfer of Bagram was fully coordinated with Afghan leaders, just as the handing over of other military bases in the country was.The abrupt exit, Afghan officials insisted, allowed looting on the military base by locals before Afghan forces arrived and took control of the facility.Ayaz Gul and VOA National Security Correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.
 

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