Top U.S. general in Afghanistan to step down Monday

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The top U.S. general in Afghanistan will step down on Monday, marking the symbolic end to America's 20-year war, two defense officials confirmed to POLITICO.

Gen. Scott Miller, who has led U.S. forces in Afghanistan for the last three years, is expected to hand over the reins to Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, in a ceremony on Monday in Kabul, Reuters and The Washington Post first reported.

While President Joe Biden has said the U.S. withdrawal will officially be complete at the end of August, Miller's departure marks one of the last steps in the ground component of the process.

Reuters reported that McKenzie will be able to order airstrikes against the Taliban and in support of the U.S.-backed government in Kabul until late August, and then will switch over to strictly counterterrorism operations.

Only a handful of U.S. troops and contractors remain in the country, POLITICO reported last week., citing U.S. officials who said that the withdrawal was over “for all intents and purposes.”

The news comes as the Taliban continue to make significant territorial gains across the country and western officials worry that the government in Kabul will soon fall.

The group has taken control military of key districts throughout the country in recent weeks and is now cutting off revenue sources to the Afghan government by seizing strategic border crossings, including with Iran and Turkmenistan.

As of Monday, the Taliban controls 204 of Afghanistan's 407 districts and contests another 124 districts, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which closely tracks the conflict.

Despite the Taliban's gains, Biden last week said the fall of Kabul was “not inevitable,” and said it's now up to the Afghan military to protect the government as the U.S. leaves.

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