General Kenneth McKenzie said in an interview with VOA: “We’re on a glide slope (in Afghanistan) to be at 4,500 by the November time frame, late October, November time frame.”
“At 4,500 we’re still going to be able to accomplish the core task that we want to accomplish, and we’ve shown more than ample goodwill in our willingness to demonstrate that we don’t want to be an occupying force in this country, but we do have strategic interests, vital interests, that compel us to be certain that these entities such as al-Qaida and ISIS can’t be guests there to attack the United States,” McKenzie added.
Currently, there are 8,600 troops in Afghanistan – which means at least 4,000 will be withdrawn.
In July, McKenzie told VOA that inter-Afghan dialogue would need to begin and the US would need to be confident that the Taliban would not host ISIS (Daesh) and al-Qaida terrorist groups before US troops could be greatly reduced in Afghanistan.
When VOA asked Wednesday what had changed, McKenzie said the Taliban “has still not shown conclusively that they are going to break with al-Qaida” and have “continued to go after the Afghan security forces.”
VOA meanwhile reported that Bradley Bowman, a defense expert with the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, raised concerns Wednesday that the announcement could be due to “a calendar or political motivation with respect to the (US presidential) election.”
“This announcement appears to be larger and faster than anticipated,” Bowman said.
“This does smack a little bit of a calendar-based withdrawal that we’ve seen time and again is a mistake, but I am pleased that it is not a complete withdrawal.”
The US presidential election is on November 3.