USA considers significant Afghanistan troop withdrawal

USA considers significant Afghanistan troop withdrawal

USA special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has met Taliban representatives during at least three separate rounds of direct talks in recent months as part of the effort to encourage negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul.

There are 14,000 USA troops in Afghanistan, thousands of whom will be withdrawn, officials told AFP and Reuters news agencies. "Multiple administration sources tell CNN they are concerned and convinced that the president may make a similar announcement about United States troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, and soon". "Western diplomats, [Afghan presidential] palace officials, and the Taliban themselves were shocked by the announcement", said Graeme Smith, a senior consultant for the International Crisis Group.

"The concerns circulating in mass media on the future of Afghanistan, were spreading much more than this in 2014", President Ghani's spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri said in a social media message on Friday.

But Afghans across the country expressed fears that a United States troop withdrawal could derail peace efforts, return the Taliban to power, and dissolve the country into civil war. "We are expecting more good news".

USA troops our both training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and carrying out counterterrorism operations against regional terror groups, like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

"If they withdraw from Afghanistan it will not have a security impact because in the last four and a half years Afghan forces have been in full control", Chakhansuri said.

They are believed to have discussed issues including the group's longstanding demand for a pullout of foreign troops and a ceasefire.

Mattis did not specially mention Afghanistan in his resignation letter to Trump, but said the president has the "right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours".

An Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that Trump's reported decision suggests "some serious progress with talks" in the U.A.E, without elaborating.

The reports come a day after the president announced the country's military withdrawal from Syria.

US Senator Lindsey Graham described the Afghanistan decision as a "high risk strategy".

The US went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 in the wake of the attacks of 11 September, 2001, on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, seeking to oust the Taliban militants harboring Saudi-raised militant Osama bin Laden.

"If we continue on our present course we are setting in motion the loss of all our gains and paving the way toward a second 9/11", he warned via Twitter.

While U.S. soldiers occasionally accompany Afghan troops on ground operations, the bulk of American military action in Afghanistan is the air support provided to Afghan ground troops.

The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan working either with a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation mission to support Afghan forces or in separate counter-terrorism operations.

"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency", he said in a tweet.

The Taliban have seized control of more land in Afghanistan over the past three years.

"Now it has a tremendous battlefield advantage, which gives it the opportunity to scale up its fight in a huge way".

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