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October 9, 2020

US troops in Afghanistan should be home by Christmas: Trump

Top Story

October 9, 2020

US troops in Afghanistan should be home by Christmas: Trump

ISLAMABAD: All US troops in Afghanistan should be “home by Christmas,” President Donald Trump said on Wednesday, just hours after his national security adviser said Washington would reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 2,500 by early next year.

A landmark deal between the United States and the Taliban in February said foreign forces would leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, who agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government.

Trump and other officials have said the United States will go down to between 4,000 and 5,000 troops in Afghanistan around November. Beyond that, officials have said that a reduction will depend on conditions in Afghanistan.

On Twitter, Trump said: “We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE men and women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” It was unclear whether Trump was giving an order or verbalising a long-held aspiration. Trump, who is seeking re-election next month, has made walking away from “ridiculous endless wars” the cornerstone of his foreign policy, even though thousands of troops remain in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

The Taliban, fighting to expel foreign forces and re-establish their Islamic state since their ouster in 2001, welcomed Trump’s comments, a British wire service reported.

The US president’s statement was “a positive step towards the implementation of the Doha agreement”, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said in a statement, referring to the February pact signed in the Qatari capital.

The US-backed Afghan government did not immediately respond to requests for comment but officials have warned against a hasty withdrawal of foreign forces.

Trump’s comments could further weaken the Afghan government’s leverage during negotiations with the Taliban on a ceasefire and power-sharing taking place in Qatar.

Just hours before Trump’s tweet, national security adviser Robert O’Brien said the United States had less than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan currently and would go down to 2,500 by early next year.

“Ultimately, the Afghans themselves are going to have to work out an accord, a peace agreement... It’s going to be slow progress, it’s going to be hard progress, but we think it’s a necessary step – we think Americans need to come home,” O’Brien told an event at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Despite the agreement on the US troop withdrawal and the talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, the war shows no sign of ending. Scores of Afghan soldiers and Taliban fighters have been killed in clashes in recent weeks. Dozens of civilians have also died.

Wednesday also marks 19 years since the United States invaded Afghanistan totopple the Taliban rulers. Meanwhile, Nato insisted that its members would consult and decide together on when to leave Afghanistan.

"We decided to go into Afghanistan together, we will make decisions on future adjustments together, and when the time is right, we will leave together," Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

Meanwhile, US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Commander of Nato’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan Gen Scott Miller called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

According to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), matters related to mutual interests, peace and stability in the region; Pak-Afghan border management; and current developments in the Afghan peace process were discussed during the meeting held at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

"Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq was also present," the ISPR said. The visiting dignitaries appreciated Pakistan's positive role in furthering the Afghan peace process.

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