According to US, European, and Afghan officials, it turns out that the US has 3500 troops stationed in Afghanistan. This is 1000 more than the previously disclosed number of 2500 troops.
Since the deadline for the US troops withdrawal is nearing, the newly revealed 1000 US soldiers in Afghanistan has created complexities in the White House as it debates whether or not to comply with the deal, struck by the Trump Administration and the Taliban, which calls for removing the remaining American forces by May 1.
As stated by a US official, the additional force included Joint Special Operations Command units, some of the elite Army Rangers, who work under both the Pentagon and the CIA while deployed to Afghanistan.
While the number 1000 may seem low, it should be noted that the US presence in Afghanistan has become a contentious issue in the war-ravaged country as well as in Washington. The Taliban want the troops gone, while the Afghan Government, and along with the Congress is in favour of the troops remaining in Afghanistan.
Officially, the Pentagon insists that troop numbers are lower. “We are still at 2,500” in Afghanistan, Maj. Rob Lodewick, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an email to The New York Times on Friday.
A common practice?
According to a report by the NewYork Times, it is common practice to have more troops in a country than the Defence Department official acknowledges.
In 2017, it was also revealed by the Pentagon that the United States has about 11,000 troops in Afghanistan. This was more than the formally disclosed number.
“To some extent, the fudging of the numbers reflects the arbitrariness of political fixation on declaring specific numbers,” said Laurel E. Miller, a former top State Department official who worked on Afghanistan and Pakistan diplomacy for former President Barack Obama and for Mr Trump.
With the deadline approaching, it may be difficult for President Biden to logistically remove all of the troops within time as he is still contemplating whether or not to leave by May 1.
Biden is wrestling with whether to follow through with a full withdrawal of the 2,500 US troops still in Afghanistan — except, as it turns out, that number is actually around 3,500. @Tmgneff @helenecooper @EricSchmittNYT https://t.co/TGfTi2wlap
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) March 14, 2021
President Biden himself is in favour of a reduced American presence in Afghanistan; however, this decision may result in the complete takeover by the Taliban who have continued with their attacks despite the on-going peace process.