The United States began its withdrawal from Afghanistan in earnest, officials said Monday, sending the first of what will be tens of thousands of containers home through a once-blocked land route through Pakistan.
The shipment of 50 containers over the weekend came as a new U.S. commander took control of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan to guide the coalition through the end stages of a war that so far has lasted more than 11 years.
The containers were in the first convoys to cross into Pakistan as part of the Afghan pullout, said Marcus Spade, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, meanwhile, faced his first headache just one day after taking command, after an Afghan government panel acknowledged that detainees taken off the battlefield by coalition and Afghan troops face widespread torture at the hands of local security forces — although it denied systematic torture in government-run prisons.
Dunford’s predecessor, Marine Gen. John Allen, had urged the Afghan government to investigate allegations of detainee abuse.
Allen also had to deal with the delicate task of improving relations with Pakistan, which closed two key land routes from Afghanistan to its southern port of Karachi to all U.S. and NATO cargo for seven months.