Taliban won’t take over Afghanistan after U.S. troops leave, ambassador says

Zalmay Khalilzad, special envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation, testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 27, 2021.

T.J. Kirkpatrick | Pool | Reuters

The nation’s top representative to Afghanistan said Tuesday that he doesn’t believe the Afghan government will collapse after U.S. and foreign troops leave the war-torn country later this year.

“I do not believe the government is going to collapse or the Taliban is going to take over,” U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Khalilzad’s testimony comes after President Biden announced the U.S. would complete their troop withdrawal from Afghanistan on September 11, effectively ending America’s longest war.

The decision to leave Afghanistan has triggered an array of reactions in Washington, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle lauding and criticizing the move. It has also triggered some concern with the highest echelons of the military.

Last week, the head of U.S. forces in the Middle East told lawmakers he was concerned that the Afghan military will collapse after U.S. and foreign troops leave the war-torn country.

“I am concerned about the ability of the Afghan military to hold on after we leave, the ability of the Afghan Air Force to fly, in particular, after we remove the support for those aircraft,” McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said during a Senate Armed Services committee hearing on April 22.

Afghan forces, he said, have gotten used to the support from U.S. and other nations’ militaries over several years.

Later at the Pentagon, McKenzie told reporters that while the U.S. will continue to support Afghanistan from afar, he was particularly concerned about aircraft maintenance.

The machines are maintained largely by contractors from the U.S. and other nations, he explained. The U.S. intends to find innovative ways of replacing these services in a way that wouldn’t involve boots on the ground, he added.

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