US preparing to withdraw over 5K troops from Afghanistan: Report
Washington: The United States is preparing to withdraw more than 5,000 of its troops from Afghanistan as part of an initial peace deal with the Taliban that would include a ceasefire and renunciation of Al-Qaeda, a media report said Thursday.
The White House did not immediately respond to the news report.
Later, the authorities denied any such development, saying that the presence of the US forces was “conditions-based”.
Quoting an unnamed US official, The Washington Post had reported Thursday that the Trump Administration was preparing to reduce its number of troops in Afghanistan from current 14,000 to 9,000 or 8,000.
According to the daily, the initial agreement would require the Taliban to begin negotiating a larger peace deal directly with the Afghan government.
Denying this, a Pentagon spokesman told The Washington Post that the Defence Department had not been ordered to withdraw forces from Afghanistan.
A State Department spokesperson told PTI, “While the RS (resolute support) or the DoD (Department of Defence) can speak with more authority on this issue, we have not adjusted our troop levels in Afghanistan to reflect our discussions with either the Afghan government or the Taliban.”
“Adjustments over the years have been conditions-based. And any future reductions or withdrawal of forces will also be conditions-based,” the spokesperson added.
CDR Rebecca Rebarich, DoD spokesperson, said, “The DoD has not been ordered to draw down. Our strategy in Afghanistan is conditions-based; our troops will remain in Afghanistan at appropriate levels so long as their presence is required to safeguard US interests.
Such an agreement has been an effort of Special US Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.
Khalilzad, who left Kabul for Doha, said he had a “most productive visit to Afghanistan” since he took this job as a special representative.
“The US and Afghanistan have agreed on next steps. And a negotiation team and technical support group are being finalised,”he had tweeted.
In Doha, Khalilzad is scheduled to hold another round of talks with the Taliban.
“I’m off to Doha, with a stop in Islamabad. In Doha, if the Taliban do their part, we will do ours, and conclude the agreement we have been working on,” he said.