Iraq News - Local News - Baghdadpost

US considers significant Afghanistan troop withdrawal - officials

af
US troops patrol at an Afghan National Army (ANA) base in
The US President Donald Trump is considering significantly drawing down troops from Afghanistan, Reuters reported citing two US officials on Thursday, in the latest sign his patience is thinning both with America's longest war and overseas military interventions, generally.

Shortly after the officials spoke, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that he was quitting so that Trump could have a Pentagon chief more aligned with the president's views.

Mattis has argued for maintaining a strong US military presence in Afghanistan to bolster diplomatic peace efforts. He also opposed the US troop withdrawal from Syria that Trump announced on Wednesday, a move that has bewildered allies and triggered harsh reaction from Republican allies in Congress.

The Pentagon declined comment on Afghanistan.

Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said that the White House was not going to comment "on future strategic developments."

The US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said thousands of the 14,000 troops could be sent home as a result of the deliberations, the disclosure of which could undermine peace efforts with the Taliban.

Trump privately has been grousing about US military involvement in Afghanistan, telling an ally as recently as Wednesday words to the effect of, "What are we doing there. We’ve been there all these years."

The source, who asked to remain unidentified, said it appeared the president "has lost all patience" with the US military presence in Afghanistan.

More than 2,400 US forces have died in the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan, and Pentagon officials have repeatedly warned that a precipitous exit would allow militants to develop new plots on America like the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that plunged the United States into an era of open-ended warfare.

Trump last year approved an increase in US troops but acknowledged that he did so reluctantly. US officials have told Reuters that Trump has been keen to bring the Afghan conflict to a close.

The Taliban insurgency has strengthened its grip over the past three years, with the government in Kabul controlling just 56 percent of Afghanistan, down from 72 percent in 2015, a US government report showed.

Late last month, at least 22 Afghan police were killed in a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan’s western province of Farah, adding to the growing casualty toll on Afghan security forces.

Earlier this week, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives held talks in Abu Dhabi on a deal that would end the war. Officials from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also took part.

The Saudi ambassador to Washington, Khalid bin Salman, tweeted on Thursday that the discussions had been productive and would bring "very positive results by the beginning of next year."

But a former senior State Department official familiar with the issue said that the Taliban representatives rejected a proposal by Khalilzad for a ceasefire and demanded that the talks focus on a US withdrawal. The news that a drawdown was under consideration could be intended as a gesture to the insurgents, the official said.
Read
Comments