US President Donald Trump’s administration may announce the drawdown of “more than 4,000 troops” from Afghanistan “as early next week,” NBC reported on Saturday, citing three current and former US officials.
The announcement come as Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has rejoined diplomatic talks with the Taliban, which had broken down in September.
Two US officials told NBC that the drawdown would be a combination of troops re-deploying early and others not being replaced when they rotate out.
A USFOR- Spokesman, in response to NBC’s story over a US troop reduction, said: “US Forces-Afghanistan has not received orders to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan.”
“We remain fully committed to the Resolute Support mission and our Afghan partners,” the spokesman told TOLOnews.
Last week, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that the Pentagon is considering several options to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan, including one that would shift to a narrower counterterrorism mission, AP reported.
Gen. Milley did not mention any troop numbers, but he agreed that leaving a minimal US footprint in Afghanistan to fight counter-terrorism is a potential move.
“We have multiple options, that’s one of them,” he said.
In the meantime, Mark Esper, US Secretary of Defense, testified alongside Milley and told the committee that the US military must remain focused on the counterterrorism mission even as efforts are made to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban.
The US has approximately 13,000 troops in Afghanistan and about 5,000 of them are doing counterterrorism missions. The remainder are part of NATO’s mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces.