Published: Mon, December 24, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Trump administration considering reducing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan

Trump administration considering reducing the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan

"The US has not consulted us on the withdrawal and today we will start meetings to discuss it", said one Western diplomat in Kabul.

Only hours before reports of the plan, the head of the British armed forces had said he believed Donald Trump would not announce a major troop withdrawal, as he had from Syria earlier this week.

Another official said that the withdrawal of the troops could take months.

Afghan officials have already expressed their displeasure with Trump's push for peace talks because Taliban representatives have refused to meet with envoys from the Kabul government, insisting they first want the U.S.to agree to pull out all foreign troops from Afghanistan.

The House of Representatives plans to vote in January on a new War Powers Resolution introduced by California Rep. Ro Khanna that would effectively end USA military intervention on behalf of Saudi Arabia in the Yemeni civil war.

INFOGRAPHIC: Which Countries Have Troops In Afghanistan?

Neighbor Pakistan, who has been harshly criticized by Trump for not doing enough to bring the Taliban to the table, had warned that a sudden departure of USA troops would result in chaos in Afghanistan and destabilize the region. "Direct US involvement in talks would also neutralize Washington from accusing Islamabad of helping the Taliban and the Haqqani Network", said Ali Akbar Khan, a Peshawar-based analyst.

The latest talks between the Taliban and USA special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad focused on the withdrawal of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops, the release of prisoners and halting attacks on civilians by pro-government forces. More than 2,400 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.

A delegation of the Afghan High Peace Council, an independent body set up to negotiate with the insurgents, was also present at the talks.

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It asserted that the representatives of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the USA had expressed deep regrets regarding Taliban's decision to stay away from direct talks with the peace negotiators of the government. But the continued presence of USA troops so far has been an insurance policy against action by Turkey while the US explores the creation of a buffer zone between YPG fighters and the Turkish border.

The expected United States move comes days after Taliban had reiterated its demand of withdrawal of the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops from the Afghan soil in talks with Washington in the UAE.

It is not clear if United States peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad or the Afghan government had been aware of Trump's plans.

During his presidential campaign, Trump pledged to reduce US's involvement in conflicts overseas.

The officials called America's withdrawal a defeat, comparing it to the U.S. evacuation from Vietnam and Russia's 1989 forced withdrawal from Afghanistan that capped a failed 10-year campaign.

Reports suggested as many as half of the 14,000 troops in the war-torn country could be leaving.

"It's becoming clear that Kabul was blindsided", says Smith. It is still to be seen how angry the U.S.'s European allies and other stakeholders are going to be with this decision.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban welcomed Trump's partial pull out, with a spokesman saying the group was "more than happy".

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