Thursday 14 November 2019
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The News - 23 days ago

US plans quick withdrawal from Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon recently began drawing up plans for an abrupt withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan in case President Donald Trump surprises military leaders by ordering an immediate drawdown as he did in Syria, three current and former defense officials said.The contingency planning is ongoing, the officials said, and includes the possibility that Trump orders all US troops out of Afghanistan within weeks. Officials cautioned, however, that the planning is a precaution and there is currently no directive from the White House to pull US troops out of Afghanistan, international media reported.One of the officials called it prudent planning. Another official described the president s current approach to Syria as a dress rehearsal for what could happen in Afghanistan.Trump has long threatened to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan, but his repeated emphasis in recent weeks on the need to end all foreign wars has infused a new sense of urgency into the renewed Pentagon effort, officials said.Earlier on Monday, the top American commander in Afghanistan revealed the size of US troop force in the country has quietly been reduced by 2,000 over the last year, insisting remaining military personnel are still capable of reaching their stated objectives.The revelation by commander of Nato s Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces in Afghanistan Gen. Austin Scott Miller, means the number of residual US force now stands at roughly 12,000 soldiers. They are tasked with fighting terrorist groups, including al-Qaida and Islamic State, as well as training, advising and assisting Afghan forces battling Taliban insurgents. Unbeknownst to the public as part of our optimisation, over the last year we have reduced our authorised strength by 2,000 here, Miller told a joint news conference with visiting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper in Kabul. So, there is a constant look as a military commander to optimise the force here, and what it s based on is you understand the risks to the force, risks to the mission, and look at it in terms of capabilities, Gen Miller said. He was responding to comments Esper made a day earlier that even if the troop size is eventually reduced down to 8,600, it will not undermine the US mission in Afghanistan.The U.S. defense secretary arrived in the Afghan capital on an unannounced visit Sunday and held talks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and met with U.S. service members.Esper on Monday dismissed concerns that Washington could be preparing to stage an abrupt pull out from Afghanistan, as many see the U.S. military doing in northeastern Syria. We have a long standing commitment to our Afghan partners. We have invested billions upon billions of dollars. Both the Afghan people and the American people have sacrificed treasure and the lives of their soldiers, Esper noted.A virulent terrorist threat is still facing the country, he said. So, all these things I think should reassure our Afghan allies and others that they should not misinterpret our actions in the recent week or so with regard to Syria and contrast that with Afghanistan, Esper stressed.

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