The U.S. military estimates that it has completed more than half of its pullout from Afghanistan, a pace that appears far ahead of the September 11 deadline set by President Joe Biden in April.“U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimates that we have completed greater than 50% of the entire retrograde process,” the command, which oversees operations in Afghanistan, said Tuesday.CENTCOM also said it had removed the equivalent of approximately 500 C-17 planeloads of material from Afghanistan and had turned over more than 13,000 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for disposition.U.S. President Joe Biden ordered American troops to leave Afghanistan by September 11, after nearly 20 years of military involvement in the war-torn country.At the time of Biden’s announcement in April, at least 2,500 U.S. troops made up part of NATO’s Afghanistan mission, which includes less than 10,000 troops.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg admitted Monday at an Atlantic Council event that the decision to leave Afghanistan “entails risk,” but added that NATO built and trained Afghan security forces to take responsibility for security in their own country.
 
The withdrawal of the U.S.-led NATO force has sparked fears that Afghanistan’s civil war could intensify and spiral out of control.Afghan civilians have been killed in a string of attacks since May 1, when the United States formally began its withdrawal, and the Taliban has made territorial gains across the country, including in Baghlan province in the north, Helmand province in the south, Farah province in the west and Laghman in the east.It is still unclear whether the Taliban will keep its commitment made as part of a deal signed with the U.S. in February 2020 to remove ties with terrorist groups, including al-Qaida. The terror group was responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks, which killed some 3,000 people on American soil.A U.N. report released last week warned the Taliban is strengthening its military posture in Afghanistan and, as a result of the U.S. agreement to withdraw, have been “emboldened to sustain attacks for longer periods while also exercising greater freedom of movement.” It added that the Taliban has, despite its words saying otherwise, shown no actions to indicate it will break ties with al-Qaida.U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida who orchestrated the 2001 attacks, during a raid on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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