US officials on the ground has said the withdrawal is already a work in progress – and May 1 is just a continuation – but Washington has made an issue of the date because it is a deadline agreed with the Taliban in 2020 to complete the pullout, according to AFP.
The prospect of an end of 20 years of US presence comes despite fighting raging across the countryside in the absence of a peace deal.
A stark reminder of what remains came late Friday with a car bomb in Pul-e-Alam, south of the capital, killing at least 21 people and wounding 100 more.
US President Joe Biden is determined to end what he called "the forever war", announcing last month that the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 American forces would be complete by the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
"A horrific attack 20 years ago... cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021," he said.
Since the US withdrawal deal was struck the Taliban have not directly engaged foreign troops, but insurgents have mercilessly attacked government forces in the countryside and waged a terror campaign in urban areas.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insists that government forces – who for months have carried out most of the ground fighting against the Taliban – are "fully capable" of keeping the insurgents at bay.
No reason to continue fighting
He has said the pullout also means the Taliban have no reason to fight.
"Who are you killing? What are you destroying? Your pretext of fighting the foreigners is now over," Ghani said in a speech this week.
The US and its NATO allies went into Afghanistan together on Oct. 7, 2001 to hunt the Al-Qaeda perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks who lived under the protection of the country’s Taliban rulers. Two months later, the Taliban had been defeated and Al-Qaeda terrorists and their leader, Osama bin Laden, were on the run, according to AP.
In his withdrawal announcement last month, Biden said the initial mission was accomplished a decade ago when US Navy SEALS killed bin Laden in his hideout in neighboring Pakistan. Since then, Al-Qaeda has been degraded, while the terrorist threat has “metastasized” into a global phenomenon that is not contained by keeping thousands of troops in one country, he said.
Afghans have paid the highest price since 2001, with 47,245 civilians killed, according to the Costs of War project. Millions more have been displaced inside Afghanistan or have fled to Pakistan, Iran and Europe.
Since the start of the war Afghan forces have also taken heavy losses, with estimates ranging from 66,000 to 69,000 Afghan troops killed.
Last year was the only year US and NATO troops did not suffer a loss. The Defense Department says 2,442 US troops have been killed and 20,666 wounded since 2001. It is estimated that over 3,800 US private security contractors have been killed.
The conflict also has killed 1,144 personnel from NATO countries.
The Taliban, meanwhile, are at their strongest since being ousted in 2001. Violence has also spiked in Afghanistan since the February 2020 deal signed between the US and Taliban.