WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday (May 6) the process of removing all contractors from Afghanistan working with the United States was under way as part of President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of forces from the country.
The remarks are the clearest indication yet that Biden’s April order to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by Sept 11 extended to US-funded contractors.
Asked whether the Pentagon had issued orders to withdraw not just American troops but also contractors, Austin said: “We’re going to responsibly retrograde all of our capabilities that we are responsible for and the contractors fall in that realm as well.”
Speaking with reporters, Austin said the contractors could, however, renegotiate their contracts in the future.
As of April, there were nearly 17,000 Pentagon contractors, including about 6,150 Americans, 4,300 Afghans and 6,400 from other countries.
The departure of thousands of contractors, especially those serving the Afghan security forces, has raised concerns among some US officials about the ability of the Afghan government and military to sustain critical functions.
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