The regrouping of terrorists such as the Islamic State and Al Qaeda militants would be a biggest concern for Pakistan, a top U.S. general has warned as the Pentagon started pulling out its troops from Afghanistan, according to a media report on Monday.
The U.S. military has begun its complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, General Austin S. Miller, the head of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, said in Kabul on Sunday. His remarks came almost two weeks after President Joe Biden announced that all the U.S. forces would be out of the war-torn country by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that propelled America into its long war in Afghanistan.
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At a recent Pentagon briefing in Washington, General Kenneth F McKenzie Jr, Commander U.S. Central Command (Centcom), has warned that after the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the biggest threat would be the regrouping of Al Qaeda and IS militants who “will be able to regenerate if pressure is not kept on them”, the Dawn Newspaper reported.
And “that’s very concerning to all the neighbouring states, biggest concern to Pakistan,” he added. As head of Centcom, Gen. McKenzie is responsible for all the U.S. military activities in the Pak-Afghan region.
The Centcom chief also said militants regrouping was not just a threat to the U.S. or Pakistan. “It’s a concern of all the Central Asian states to the north. It is even of concern to Iran in the West…Everyone has a vested interest in a stable Afghanistan,” he said.
According to a transcript the Pentagon released this weekend, General McKenzie also underlined that his command and American diplomats were working with nations surrounding Afghanistan on agreements to base troops and aircraft for countering terrorists after the U.S. pullout, the report said.
“That would be ultimately a decision made at the national level by the U.S. if we were to seek basing rights in those countries,” said the general when asked if internal politics in Pakistan and other states could prevent Washington from having military bases in the region.
During the early phases of the 18-year war in Afghanistan, the U.S. flew drone missions out of Shamsi airfield in Balochistan, the report said.
General McKenzie said he was now figuring out how the U.S. will be able to conduct counter-terrorism activities in the area without being in Afghanistan.
The pullout, he said, did not “mean that the U.S. will be at the mercy of groups such as IS, Al Qaida or the Taliban if they want to create problems and threaten our interests”.