Defense chief: US pullout from Afghanistan ‘slightly’ ahead

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrives to attend United States Military Academy graduating ceremony on Saturday, May 22, 2021, in West Point, N.Y. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Congress on Thursday that America’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is “slightly” ahead of schedule, but he provided no details.

President Joe Biden has ordered a full U.S. troop withdrawal by Sept. 11. Austin did not say when it may be complete.

Austin said at a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing that the Defense Department’s proposed $715 billion budget will include money to help the military develop the capabilities to prevent attacks against the United States by terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

With the budget set to be released Friday, Austin provided few spending specifics to committee members asking about various priorities.

U.S. military commanders have said they will monitor and counter threats from al-Qaida and the Islamic State group from outside the country once U.S. forces leave Afghanistan later this summer. Militants are expected to try to regroup after U.S. and coalition forces depart.

So far, officials have acknowledged that the U.S. does not yet have any agreements for basing or overflights from any of Afghanistan’s countries.

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