President Donald Trump said Wednesday that all US troops should be out of Afghanistan by Christmas, hours after his National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brien, anticipated the number of soldiers would be drawn down to about 2,500 by early next year.
“We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” the president tweeted.
Last month, CENTCOM chief Gen. Frank McKenzie said that the total number of US troops in Afghanistan was expected to be reduced to about 4,500 by next month.
We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2020
Trump has already reduced US forces in Afghanistan to around 8,600 and the Taliban has stood by promises not to attack Western troops -- even as the militants continue their bloody campaign against government forces. The number was predicted to continue decreasing as progress was made in the peace talks.
And last month, David Helvey, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said there were no orders to reduce the number to zero before May 2021. “But those plans can’t be implemented unless the conditions of an agreement with the Taliban are met,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, NSA chief O’Brien said that there were more than 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan when Trump took office.
“As of today, there are under 5,000 and that will go to 2,500 by early next year,” O’Brien said.
The United States first intervened in Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks and dislodged the Taliban regime, which had welcomed Al-Qaeda.
But in the years since the resurgent militants have launched a fresh battle to topple the US-backed government in Kabul, with civilians bearing the brunt of spiraling violence since NATO combat troops withdrew in 2014.
- With AFP