Despite rapid territorial gains by Taliban insurgents across Afghanistan, U.S. General Austin Scott Miller handed over command Monday to Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the current leader of U.S. Central Command.
The ceremony took place in Kabul, marking the symbolic end to America’s 20-year war, though American forces will still be present until the end of August.
U.S. officials said that the withdrawal was over “for all intents and purposes,” even though the Taliban is gaining traction across the country and western officials worry that the government in Kabul will soon fall.
In recent weeks, the Taliban has taken control of major areas across Afghanistan. It is also cutting off financial streams for the Afghan government by taking strategic border crossings, notably those with Iran and Turkmenistan.
Miller is concerned, saying he has told Taliban officials, “it’s important that the military sides set the conditions for a peaceful and political settlement in Afghanistan. … But we know that with that violence, it would be very difficult to achieve a political settlement.”
As of the release of this article, the Taliban currently controls 204 districts and contests another 124 districts, according to the real-time assessment by FDD’s Long War Journal.
Last week, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby stated that McKenzie would develop options to continue supporting the Afghan forces once the drawdown is officially complete.