NATO has begun withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, officials confirmed on Thursday.
“NATO allies decided in mid-April to start the withdrawal of Resolute Support Mission forces by May 1 and this withdrawal has begun,” a NATO official told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity.
The official underlined that the withdrawal will be “an orderly, coordinated, and deliberate process” as agreed by the allies.
“We plan to have our withdrawal completed within a few months,” he added.
The official declined to give any detail about troop numbers and timelines for individual nations during the withdrawal process.
“The safety of our troops will be a top priority every step of the way, and we are taking all necessary measures to keep our personnel from harm,” he said.
“Any Taliban attacks during the withdrawal will be met with a forceful response,” he added.
US President Joe Biden had announced earlier this month that the US would be withdrawing all of its forces by Sept. 11 -- the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that prompted the US military operation.
Deployment of foreign troops began in Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001, when the US together with the UK launched Operation Enduring Freedom. They were joined by some 43 NATO allies and partners after the UN authorized International Security Assistance Force on Dec. 20, 2001.
Currently, there are a total of 9,592 troops of 36 nations stationed in Afghanistan. The US tops the list with 2,500 soldiers.
The administration of former US President Donald Trump had agreed to withdraw all American forces by May after striking a peace deal with the Taliban under which the group was to stop attacking international troops and engage in peace negotiations with the Afghan government.