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Trump 'to withdraw thousands of troops' from Afghanistan in deal with Taliban

President wants troops back home before 2020 election

Andrew Buncombe
Thursday 01 August 2019 19:54 BST
Trump mocks India's Prime Minister Modi for helping build a library in Afghanistan

The US is set to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan as part of an initial peace deal with the Taliban, it has been reported.

Almost 18 years after US, UK and other coalition troops invaded Afghanistan in pursuit of Osama bin Laden and his Taliban hosts in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Donald Trump appears set to keep a promise he made on the campaign trail to withdraw up to 6,000 of the US forces still there.

The Washington Post said the proposal expected to be implemented in the context of brokering a peace deal with the Taliban, would see the number of US troops cut from approximately 14,000 to between 7,000 to 8,000.

The newspaper said the plan would require the Taliban to begin negotiating a larger peace deal directly with the Afghan government.

Earlier this week, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, said the president wanted US combat forces in Afghanistan reduced by the 2020 election.

“That’s my directive from the president of the United States,” Mr Pompeo told The Economic Club of Washington DC, when asked whether he expects the United States to reduce troops in Afghanistan before the next election.

According to Reuters, he added: “He’s been unambiguous: end the endless wars, draw down, reduce. It won’t just be us. We hope that overall the need for combat forces in the region is reduced.”

The number of US troops in Afghanistan has changed over time. At its peak, in May 2011, when special forces founded and killed Bin Laden in neighbouring Pakistan, there were 100,000 soldiers there.

It was at that point, Barack Obama announced he was starting to draw down troops. The drawn down of US troops from Iraq took place between 2007-2011.

Boy in Afghanistan dances after he receives his prosthetic leg

Mr Trump has long called for the return of US troops from overseas conflicts, arguing that other countries, including Nato members, should step up and fill the gap.

He doubled down on that notion in this year’s state of the union address.

“Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he said.

“Thanks to their bravery, we are now able to pursue a possible political solution to this long and bloody conflict. As we make progress in these negotiations, we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism. And we will indeed focus on counter-terrorism.”

Mr Pompeo made his remarks as Afghanistan prepares for a presidential election in September and the United States prepares to engage in another round of talks with the insurgents.

More than 20,000 US and other Nato coalition troops are still in Afghanistan as part of a mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces, which remain heavily dependent on US air support, and to carry out counterterrorism operations.

During the last 18 years, there have been 2,372 US military deaths in Afghanistan. More than 450 British troops were killed. An unknown number of Afghan civilians, troops, and Taliban fighters have also lost their lives.

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