US troops withdrawal now 50 percent complete: CENTCOM chief

The US has completed about half of its withdrawal from Afghanistan and remains on track to meet the September 11 deadline to leave, US General Frank McKenzie said on Monday.

The head of the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) said the coming months would be critical for Afghanistan’s future and urged the Afghan government and the Taliban to resume stalled peace talks in Doha.

“We’ve completed about half of the entire retrograde process and we will meet the September deadline to complete the full withdrawal from Afghanistan,” McKenzie said in a call with Middle East-based reporters, the UAE’s The National reported.

“We are on pace and it is continuing very smoothly,” he added.

He said the US would maintain an embassy in Kabul for as long as the Afghan government wanted it there, repeating the Pentagon’s vow to continue supporting the Afghan security forces and to conduct counter-terrorism operations from “over the horizon.”

McKenzie said it was “critical” the Afghan Republic and the Taliban resume peace talks.

“As we pull out, there needs to be something political that’s left in place,” he said.

“The government of Afghanistan is willing to do that. I am not sure the Taliban [are] willing to do that. Now is the time, and unfortunately, time is now becoming very short.”

McKenzie also raised the issue of Iran on Monday and said its “destabilising” activity was the biggest threat to Middle East security.

“Our posture in the region has had a deterrent effect on Iran and made it more difficult for them to deny attribution for their malign activities,” McKenzie said.