“As we work in Afghanistan with our partners, we’re always looking to optimize the force,” Army Gen. Austin Miller said at a news conference in Kabul. “Unbeknownst to the public, as part of our optimization … we reduced our authorized strength by 2,000 here.”
“I’m confident that we have the right capabilities to: 1. Reach our objectives as well as continue train, advise, and assist throughout the country,” Miller continued.
The New York Times was first to report that the US military had reduced its troop strength in Afghanistan even though peace talks with the Taliban are on hiatus. The number of troops in the country has gone from about 15,000 to 13,000, a US official told Task & Purpose on condition of anonymity.
Separately, the US military is considering drawing down further to 8,600 troops in Afghanistan as part of a broader political agreement, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on October 19.
“We’ve always said, that it’ll be conditions based, but we’re confident that we can go down to 8,600 without affecting our [counterterrorism] operations, if you will,” Esper said while en route to Afghanistan.
So far, no order has been given to draw down to 8,600 US troops in Afghanistan, the US official said.
After President Donald Trump cancelled peace talks with the Taliban, which had been expected to take place at Camp David around the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the US military has increased both air and ground attacks.
In September, US military aircraft dropped more ordnance in Afghanistan than they have since October 2010, according to Air Force statistics.