13:12 GMT28 July 2021
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    The ongoing withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan comes amid reports that the pullout may disrupt a CIA network in the country, and have a negative impact on the agency's secret missions there, including drone strikes.

    The Biden administration's National Security Council is reportedly still considering "raising the bar" for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon to conduct Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) strikes and commando raids in Afghanistan once US troops are withdrawn from there.

    CNN has cited unnamed sources as saying that the White House is also considering the removal of the combat zone designation for Afghanistan.

    Over the past few years, this technical distinction has had a significant impact on how freely the US could use lethal drone strikes and commando raids in terrorism hotspots like Somalia and Yemen.

    In this photo taken on August 5, 2011, US troops from the Charlie Company, 2-87 Infantry, 3d Brigade Combat Team under Afghanistan's International Security Assistance Force patrols Kandalay village following Taliban attacks on a joint US and Afghan National Army checkpoint protecting the western area of Kandalay village.
    © AFP 2021 / Romeo Gacad
    In this photo taken on August 5, 2011, US troops from the Charlie Company, 2-87 Infantry, 3d Brigade Combat Team under Afghanistan's International Security Assistance Force patrols Kandalay village following Taliban attacks on a joint US and Afghan National Army checkpoint protecting the western area of Kandalay village.

    The Trump administration allowed commanders in the field to make targeting decisions under their own authority, but the Biden team moved to review the rules.

    According to the sources, "it remains to be seen if the [Biden] administration will put Afghanistan on a similar footing or implement specific criteria for terrorists there post-withdrawal".

    The insiders claimed that membership in al-Qaeda* or Daesh* would not necessarily be automatic grounds for a drone strike under the possible new rules.

    "The new framework under consideration would require a more thorough interagency vetting process and more extensive White House involvement before the CIA conducts a lethal operation in Afghanistan", the sources stressed.

    US Troop Withdrawal May Disrupt CIA Network in Afghanistan

    The remarks followed US media reports that the withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan will most likely disrupt a CIA network that was created there more than twenty years ago.

    According to the reports, intelligence obtained by agents working on the ground is crucial for secret CIA missions, including those related to drone strikes.

    This was preceded by CIA Director Bill Burns warning that "when the time comes for the US military to withdraw [from Afghanistan], the US government's ability to collect and act on threats will diminish", which is "simply a fact".

    At the same time, the CIA boss pledged that his agency would retain "a suite of capabilities, some of them remaining in place, some of them that we'll generate that can help us to anticipate and contst any rebuilding effort [by al-Qaeda* or ISIS*]".

    In this photo provided by U.S. Navy, USS Nimitz (CVN 68) steams alongside the Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76, not in photo) in the South China Sea, Monday, July 6, 2020.
    © AP Photo / Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Kimani J. Wint
    In April, President Joe Biden declared that the US would begin withdrawing its 2,500 troops from Afghanistan on 1 May, with the aim of being completely out by 11 September.

    In a nod to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, POTUS stressed that both US troops and forces deployed by Washington's NATO allies and operational partners "will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of the heinous attack on 11 September, but we will not take our eyes off the terrorist threat".

    He added that he had consulted with former US President George W. Bush before making his decision on the American troop withdrawal.

    *al-Qaeda, Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State), terrorist groups banned in Russia and a number of other countries

    Related:

    Some 18,000 Helpers Seeking to Flee Afghanistan Before US Troops Pull Out, Blinken Says
    Afghanistan No Longer Priority for West, So US Troops to Exit Despite Violence Reports, Analysts Say
    About 650 Troops to Remain in Afghanistan After US Completes Pullout, AP Reports
    Tags:
    decisions, drone strikes, troops, withdrawal, CIA, Afghanistan, US
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