President Biden pushed back the initial May deadline set by the Trump administration, instead aiming to withdraw all troops by Sept. 11. Around 2,500 American troops currently operate within the country.
The move has received bipartisan backlash, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying it would be a “grave mistake” to withdraw before ensuring the Taliban had been defeated.
“Leaders in both parties, including me, offered criticism when the prior administration floated the concept of a reckless withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan,” McConnell said, referring to the original Trump administration timeline.
Now, the U.S. has started the final withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
“I now have a set of orders,” Gen. Austin S. Miller, the head of the coalition in Afghanistan, said Sunday at a news conference at the U.S. military’s headquarters in Kabul. “We will conduct an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan and that means transitioning bases and equipment to the Afghan security forces.”
The Taliban have continued their activity in the region even as the U.S pushes for peace talks: The Ministry of Interior reported that the Taliban conducted 62 bomb blasts and 6 suicide bombings in the last 11 days, killing 63 civilians and wounding 180 more, according to TOLO News, an Afghanistan-based news agency.
Former President George W. Bush warned last week that the decision to withdraw troops from the country would provide opportunities to the Taliban that he hoped the U.S. would not come to regret.
“My first reaction was, wow, these girls are going to have real trouble with the Taliban,” Bush said. “A lot of gains have been made, and so I’m deeply concerned about the plight of women and girls in that country.”
He added: “I think the administration hopes that the girls are going be OK through diplomacy. We’ll find out. All I know is the Taliban, when they had the run of the place, they were brutal.”
Biden has maintained that his withdrawal timeline is based on consultation with experts, Congress and allies on the world stage.
“I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats,” Biden said. “I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Adam Shaw contributed to this report.