The soldiers will provide security cover to US diplomats for several more months, while hundreds of others to remain at the Kabul airport, to assist Turkish troops providing security there, until a formal Turkey-led security operation is in place.

The US intends to keep a few hundred soldiers in Afghanistan for a little while longer as it prepares for a complete withdrawal.
The US intends to keep a few hundred soldiers in Afghanistan for a little while longer as it prepares for a complete withdrawal. (AP)

Washington will keep around 650 soldiers in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main American military force completes withdrawal, which is set to be largely done in the next two weeks, according to US officials. 

In addition, several hundred additional American forces will remain at the Kabul airport, potentially until September, to assist Turkish troops providing security, as a temporary move until a more formal Turkey-led security operation is in place. 

Turkey has already indicated that it won't send more of its troops to secure Kabul airport. 

READ MORE: Turkey not sending more troops to Afghanistan for Kabul airport security

Overall, officials said the US expects to have American and coalition military command, its leadership and most troops out by July Fourth, or shortly after that, meeting an aspirational deadline that commanders developed months ago.

The departure of the bulk of the more than 4,000 troops that have been in the country in recent months is unfolding well before President Joe Biden’s September 11 deadline for withdrawal. 

It comes amid accelerating Taliban battlefield gains, fueling fears that the Afghan government and its military could collapse in a matter of months.

But Afghan forces have been battling Taliban fighters on their own for months after the US shut some of its airbases and handed others Afghanistan's army. 

US officials have repeatedly stressed that security at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul is a critical requirement to keeping any US diplomatic staff in Afghanistan. 

The Biden administration wants to withdraw all its troops from the war-torn country. Leaving additional troops there for several more months complicates Washington's desire to extricate itself from America's longest war until later this fall. 

It keeps Afghanistan near the forefront of US national security challenges, even as the White House tries to put the 20-year-old war behind it and focus more on threats from China and Russia.

Biden meets Ghani 

On Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chair of the High Council for National Reconciliation, are meeting with Biden at the White House. 

The two Afghan leaders also are to meet at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and possibly other administration officials.

Getting most troops out by early July had been in doubt because of complications including an outbreak of Covid-19 at the US Embassy and the push to get Afghan interpreters and others who helped the US out of the country. 

The roughly 650 US troops that are planned to be a more permanent force presence in Afghanistan will provide security for the US Embassy and some ongoing support at the airport. 

Officials said the US has agreed to leave a C-RAM — or Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar system — at the airport, as well as troops to operate it, as part of an agreement with Turkey. The US also plans to leave aircrew for helicopter support at the airport.

According to the officials, Turkey has largely agreed to provide security at the airport as long as it receives support from American forces. 

US and Turkish military officials are meeting in Ankara this week to finalise arrangements.

Source: AP