The Trump administration plans to announce that the drawdown of approximately 4,000 troops from Afghanistan as early next week, according to three former and current U.S. officials.
The statement comes only days following Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad rejoined diplomatic discussions with all the Taliban, which had broken in September. Khalilzad said the U.S. had been”carrying a short pause” in discussions following a Wednesday assault near Bagram Airfield murdered two Afghan civilians and injured 70 more.
The officials wouldn’t say when the drawdown would start, but did describe it as a withdrawal that could happen over a couple of months. Two U.S. officials stated the drawdown is a combo of troops re-deploying ancient and many others not being replaced when they move out.
In a statement, a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan stated, “U.S. Forces-Afghanistan hasn’t received orders to decrease troop levels in Afghanistan. We remain completely committed to the Resolute Support assignment and our Afghan partners and concentrated on our key goal: ensuring Afghanistan is never again used as a haven for terrorists that threaten the USA, our allies or our interests”
President Donald Trump has pushed to get a withdrawal from Afghanistan for a while, for example during his latest trip to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving, his first as commander in chief.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told an audience in the Reagan National Defense Forum last weekend the decrease of U.S. troops will occur even in case the Taliban doesn’t negotiate an arrangement, which the commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller has stated he could sustain a reduction in forces.
“The commander feels convinced we could return to a lower level without undermining our ability to make sure that Afghanistan does not become a safe harbor for terrorism,” Esper said, adding that he expects to reallocate forces from CENTCOM into the Asia Pacific area, he called his”priority theatre “
The statement of withdrawal is”a part of attempting to reset the discussions with the Taliban,” the former defense official said. Khalilzad can then suggest to the Taliban the 2 sides restart talks where they left off, with all the U.S. withdrawing troops along with the Taliban assuring a ceasefire.
“This requires us into the minimum which you need to keep from the nation to stay plausible negotiating with the Taliban,” the former official said.
In October Esper stated the U.S. could fall to 8,600 troops without impacting the counterterror operations.
The conversation also included talk of climbing the U.S. military footprint in different areas of the Middle East to counter the danger from Iran.
Trump has promised because campaigning for the White House in 2016 to terminate wars such as the one in Afghanistan and lessen the amount of all U.S. troops deployed abroad. His advisors have over the previous 3 years persuaded him to not pull the plug to the Afghanistan mission, however, the president revealed a willingness to take this a measure in October when he suddenly pulled U.S. troops from Syria.
Trump had made apparent to his consultants earlier this season he wished to withdraw all troops out of Afghanistan from the November 2020 election.
“It is all about speaking points in 2020,” the former official said.