US President Donald Trump said that Washington plans to leave 8,600 American troops in Afghanistan, but suggested further cuts could follow – over 15 years after President Bush boasted major victories against terrorists there.
President Trump announced the possible drawdown on Thursday morning in an interview with Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade.
Even if an agreement is reached with the Taliban militants, there would be no complete reduction of the military personnel. Rather the presence of US troops in the country – now at around 14,000 – will be cut by nearly 40 percent.
“We’re going down to 8,600 and then we make a determination from there,” Trump said. Additional cuts could come later, but not a complete withdrawal.
“We’re reducing that presence very substantially and we’re going to always have a presence. We’re going to have high intelligence.”
The Taliban previously insisted on a complete American withdrawal from Afghanistan, but the militant faction and Washington reportedly resolved differences over that question earlier this month. The ninth round of negotiations between the two parties to end the 18-year-old war began in Qatar last week.
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The prospective peace deal is said to entail a reduction of US troops in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban that it won’t use Afghanistan as a “safe haven” for terrorism, as well as an eventual ceasefire between the Taliban and the US-backed Afghan national government.
The 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan came on the heels of the September 11 terrorist attacks, which left thousands dead and injured in New York, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania.
After three years fighting the Taliban – who Washington accused of harboring the 9/11 plotters – President George Bush declared Afghanistan to be the “first victory in the war on terror,” yet the conflict drags on 15 years later.
The Taliban has shown little sign of scaling back its activities, controlling more territory now than it ever has since the 2001 invasion, according to Reuters. Taliban attacks also continue unabated, detonating a car bomb in Kabul earlier this month, leaving nearly 100 injured.