US turns over base to Afghan forces in volatile Helmand Province, withdrawal up to 6% complete: military

The U.S. military has completed the first facility turnover to Afghanistan forces in the country, marking a significant step in President Biden’s promised withdrawal.

Biden set a target to withdraw troops from the country by Sept. 11, a four-month delay from former President Trump’s original May 1 deadline. U.S. military forces have worked since Biden’s announcement to prepare for the withdrawal by retrograding materials and destroying equipment.

Additionally, the military has handed over control of Camp Antonik — located in the volatile Helmand Province — to the Afghan National Army, it said Tuesday.

Handover ceremony at Camp Anthonic, from U.S. Army, to Afghan Defense Forces in Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 2, 2021. 

Handover ceremony at Camp Anthonic, from U.S. Army, to Afghan Defense Forces in Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 2, 2021. 
(Ministry of Defense Press Office/Handout via REUTERS)

With this latest move, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimates that between 2% and 6% of the withdrawal process has now been completed.

The U.S. also moved the equivalent of approximately 60 C-17 plane-loads of material out of the country and turned over more than 1,300 pieces of equipment for destruction.

Taliban attacks have increased since the withdrawal began, with recent fighting in Helmand leaving 100 Taliban dead.

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Biden’s plan to withdraw the roughly 2,500 American troops still stationed in Afghanistan has received bipartisan backlash, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saying it would be a “grave mistake” to withdraw before ensuring the Taliban has 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-era timeline.

Despite the criticism, the U.S. military initiated the withdrawal on April 25.

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In the two weeks leading up to the start of the withdrawal, the Afghan Ministry of Interior reported that the Taliban conducted 62 bomb blasts and six suicide bombings, killing 63 civilians and wounding 180 more. Understandably, many are concerned that the attacks will only increase once the U.S. military has fully withdrawn.

The Taliban have issued vague warnings in recent months to take action if the U.S. does not adhere to the withdrawal. 

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The military has said it will only provide an approximate range of the percentage of the exit process. “As the responsible and orderly exit continues, the size of the range will increase to preserve operational security,” the press release said. 

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report. 

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