The pull-out of the US and its National Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliances from two military bases in Afghanistan would leave at least 2,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) jobless as soon as they start withdrawing their forces from Kabul.
About 2,500 American troops will leave Bagram and Kandahar starting May 1. This means the end of the Filipinos’ role in America’s war of “Enduring Freedom, with the phased pull-out expected to end in September 2021. This would coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, blamed on Islamic extremists led by Osama bin Laden who found sanctuary for years in Afghanistan.
The US and NATO forces had a presence in Afghanistan for almost 20 years. At its peak, they numbered up to 120,000 troops.
The withdrawal comes amid escalating violence, with Afghan security forces on high alert for reprisal attacks by the Taliban terrorists.
There are 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan who are ending what President Joe Biden called “the forever war,” although the number varies and is currently about 1,000 more than the official figure.
Also, up to 7,000 foreign forces remain in the coalition, majority of them part of the NATO troops.
For almost two decades, OFWs were the highest paid group of Filipino migrant workers, said Afghan recruitment consultant Manny Geslani.
Geslani said Filipinos working inside US bases in Afghanistan will be slowly returning to the Philippines following the US military’s withdrawal.
The deployment of American troops in Afghanistan started two years after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and on the Pentagon.
Geslani said the remaining Filipinos in Kandahar will leave this week as the base ends all military operations by May 1. In Bagram, many civilian contractors have also started packing up, including the rest of the OFWs.
A few hundred Filipinos will also lose their jobs within the NATO bases as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had agreed to withdraw about 7,000 forces in Afghanistan, matching Biden’s decision to begin a final pull-out by the first of May.
The OFWs have been working in Bagram and Kandahar almost as soon as the US started its war against the Taliban in 2003.
The US formed a coalition of countries like the UK, France, Canada and other NATO members, to engage the Taliban.
The remaining OFW in Bagram and Kandahar airfields are doing mostly logistical and maintenance work for the US Armed Forces.
Geslani said some of the OFWs have returned to their country, while the OFW’s international contractors have also finished their contracts.
The signing of the deal with the Taliban in February 2020 initiated a phased withdrawal of the roughly 12,000 American military personnel who were still in the country. The agreement also included a prisoner exchange and direct negotiations between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s government over the country’s political future.