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Pentagon Says 'Harassing Attacks' Not Impeding Afghan Operations


A U.S. soldier and an Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier shake hands during a handover ceremony to the ANA of a camp in Helmand Province on May 2.

Amid heightened violence and stalled peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, the U.S. military says "small harassing attacks" have not significantly affected the early days of international forces' official withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The official U.S. and NATO pullout begun on May 1, leaving the war-torn country to an uncertain future, is expected to culminate in the last of up to 3,500 U.S. and 7,000 alliance troops departing by September 11.

"What we've seen are some small harassing attacks over the course of the weekend that have not had any significant impact, certainly not on our people or our resources there and bases," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on May 3.

U.S. President Joe Biden postponed a May 1 deadline for complete withdrawal agreed between his predecessor and the Taliban after taking office in January, delaying by four months the end of two decades of foreign military presence.

NATO has said it would follow the same timetable for withdrawing members of its Resolute Support mission.

The Taliban has warned that the militants will target the foreign troops in the country.

The pullout will be a test for the Afghan security forces, with U.S. generals expressing concerns in recent weeks that it might lead to the collapse of the Afghan government or a new civil war.

But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insisted last week that government forces were "fully capable" of keeping the militants at bay.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in London on May 3 that the United States was "very focused on a deliberate, safe, and orderly drawdown of our forces" in Afghanistan.

He said the United States was "not disengaging" and that "we intend to sustain our assistance" to Afghanistan despite the pullout.

Blinken also said that "we spent a good deal of time consulting with NATO allies" in connection with Biden's decision.

At a press conference alongside Blinken, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that "we do not feel ignored" by the United States.

Intra-Afghan peace efforts have stalled since the Western-backed government in Kabul and the Taliban began talks in Qatar last year.

An Istanbul international summit was for April, but the event was postponed because the Taliban refused to participate and no new date has been set.

With reporting by Reuters
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