U.S. Seeks to Draw Down Its Troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 by Early 2021

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WASHINGTON — President Trump’s nationwide safety adviser introduced on Wednesday that the United States would reduce its troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 by early subsequent yr.

But hours later, his boss contradicted him, suggesting a timeline as early as Christmas and prompting confusion amongst administration officers.

“We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter.

Asked in regards to the tweet, a senior U.S. navy official was silent for a second earlier than saying, “Oh my God!” The official mentioned he was not conscious of such a choice.

But Mr. Trump usually takes to Twitter to announce coverage, continuously to the shock of these concerned. The president has forecast troop withdrawals, for example, even with out apprising the Pentagon, as he did with Syria in 2018 in a transfer that prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

The senior U.S. navy official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate inside assessments, raised questions in regards to the timing of the conflicting feedback on troop cuts in Afghanistan from Mr. Trump and his adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, which got here shortly earlier than the vice-presidential debate began.

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr. Brien forecast a discount to 2,500 service members from the 4,500 that officers had estimated would stay in Afghanistan by November. That quantity, administration officers calculated, would give the president the chance to attempt to inform voters that he had wound down America’s longest warfare. But such a drawdown is more likely to be contingent on the end result of the election.

“When President Trump took office, there were over 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan,” Mr. O’Brien mentioned throughout an occasion on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “As of today, there are under 5,000, and that will go to 2,500 by early next year.”

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee, additionally doesn’t favor a big troop presence within the nation. But ought to he win workplace, his administration is more likely to conduct a overview of Afghanistan coverage.

Senior navy officers have argued all yr {that a} fast withdrawal from Afghanistan would successfully doom the peace deal reached in February with the Taliban.

In current months, Mr. Trump has repeatedly voiced a want to depart the nation prior to the timeline specified by the Feb. 29 peace settlement with the Taliban, which stipulated that U.S. troops would withdraw in 12 to 14 months if the rebel group met sure situations.

The Pentagon has tried to work round a commander in chief who has commonly stunned the navy along with his choices. Taliban and Afghan government-backed negotiators, for his or her half, are nonetheless struggling to advance intra-Afghan peace talks, though the 2 sides just lately agreed on a broad code of conduct.

As the discussions have continued, so too has the preventing. In a big tactical shift, the Taliban have carried out focused assaults, like bombings and assassinations, to exert stress whereas sustaining deniability for the violence.

In Doha, Qatar, the place the talks are going down, chief negotiators from each side have referred to as for endurance, however sticking factors stay, like which faculty of Islamic thought to make use of for resolving disputes.

While each events largely agree on utilizing the Hanafi faculty of Islamic thought, one of many 4 main Sunni colleges that can also be the inspiration of the present Afghan Constitution, they’re at odds on a formulation that doesn’t alienate different sects, notably the Shia.

“Ultimately, the Afghans themselves are going to have to work out an accord, a peace agreement,” Mr. O’Brien mentioned. He added, “We think Americans need to come home.”

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