Afghanistan drawdown? Not so fast, says Covid-19

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On the list of events being affected by the global Covid-19 pandemic, you can now add the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

  • Gen. Austin Miller, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is “preventing some troops from leaving” the country for the next month in an effort to protect them from the virus, the New York Times reports.
  • The U.S. started to draw down troops to 8,600 earlier this month following the signing of the Afghanistan peace deal
  • Coalition forces, who were also expecting to start reducing troop numbers, have "put aside" those discussions, in part due to the new coronavirus.
  • Per the Times, American officials “insist their Afghanistan drawdown will continue as planned,” but European diplomats “are not so sure.”
  • There are 22 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Afghanistan so far, and “thousands of people from Iran, where the virus has spread and infected thousands, enter Afghanistan’s porous western reaches daily.” 
  • On Wednesday, Col. Sonny Leggett, U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, tweeted that protecting the force "is our top priority," and that they are continuing "to execute the ordered drawdown to 8600."