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Pentagon announces troop reduction in Afghanistan and Iraq

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(Last Updated On: November 18, 2020)

The US troop presence in Afghanistan and Iraq will be reduced to 2,500 in each country by mid-January, US acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced on Tuesday.

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who Trump installed last week after firing Mark Esper, confirmed.

“By Jan. 15, 2021, our forces, their size in Afghanistan, will be 2,500 troops. Our force size in Iraq will also be 2,500 by that same date,” Miller told reporters.

US Acting Secretary of Defence Christopher Miller also phoned President Ghani and discussed the decision and the Afghan peace process.

“Both sides talked about the peace process, strengthening mutual relations, and continued meaningful U.S. military support to the Afghan Security and Defense Forces.” Presidential palace said.

Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was also present in this telephone call, palace said.

Yesterday Afghan Acting defense minister Assadullah Khalid told parliament that although he does not believe a full withdrawal of foreign forces will happen, the ANDSF are fully prepared to defend their country.

This comes after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday warned against a hasty withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and said the price for leaving too soon could “be very high”.

NATO currently has less than 12,000 troops from dozens of countries in Afghanistan, while the US is now down to around 4,500.

Stoltenberg said that “even with further US reductions, NATO will continue its mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces. We are also committed to funding them through 2024.”

Meanwhile, according to a Pentagon watchdog report published in “The Hill” reported that the Taliban has conducted a “small number” of attacks against US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan despite its agreement with the Trump administration banning such attacks, a Pentagon watchdog said in a report released Tuesday.

The Taliban did not comment yet.

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Fears of Taliban takeover post troop withdrawal are overblown: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2021)

The US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said Tuesday predictions that the Taliban will quickly overrun Afghan government forces and conquer Kabul once U.S. and coalition forces have withdrawn are unduly pessimistic.

Testifying before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Khalilzad said: “I personally believe that the statements that their (Afghan) forces will disintegrate and the Talibs will take over in short order are mistaken.”

His comments came as committee members expressed concern that President Joe Biden’s decision to fully withdraw all troops by September 11 will lead to chaos and intensified civil war.

AP reported that Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and withdrawal critic, asserted that there is “zero chance” the Taliban will abide by the commitments their leaders made in a February 2020 agreement with the Trump administration, which included engaging in sustained peace negotiations and severing all forms of cooperation with and support for al-Qaida.

“It seems all but certain the Taliban will try to overrun the country and return it to a pre-9/11 state after we have withdrawn,” McCaul said. 

“They’ve already ramped up their attacks, taking new territory and bases since the (Biden) announcement was made. Without a military presence in country, the U.S. is giving them room to deepen their relationship with terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, who may seek to launch external attacks on us and our allies from the country once again.”

Khalilzad argued that the Taliban have reason not to push for a military victory and instead pursue a negotiated political settlement that could give them international legitimacy and removal from certain American and United Nations sanctions. 

“They say they seek normalcy in terms of relations — acceptability, removal from sanctions, not to remain a pariah,” Khalilzad said.

Khalilzad said the U.S. military withdrawal is proceeding “so far so good,” and added: “We expect that to continue.” 

He said diplomatic efforts are underway to seek agreements with neighboring countries to position U.S. counterterrorism forces within strike distance of Afghanistan to be able to respond to future threats.

 

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Five military facilities handed over to Defense Ministry: CENTCOM

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2021)

U.S. Central Command said Tuesday that about 115 C-17 military cargo loads of material have been flown out of Afghanistan and more than 5,000 pieces of equipment have been turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction.

According to a statement issued by CENTCOM, the U.S. has officially handed over five facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense. 

“U.S. Central Command estimates that we have completed between 13-20% of the entire retrograde process,” the statement read.

The foreign troops withdrawal process started officially on May 1 and according to U.S. President Joe Biden it will be complete by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States. 

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NSA says all leverage possible needed to get Taliban to talks tables

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2021)

Afghan National Security Advisor (NSA) Hamdullah Mohib said Tuesday that all forms of leverage must be used to get the Taliban to actively engage in peace talks.

Mohib’s comments come amid an uptick in attacks by the Taliban in many province across the country following the three-day Eid ceasefire.

On Monday, Mohib discussed the Afghan peace process with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a phone conversation.

According to Mohib’s office, Wang assured Mohib of China’s full support for peace, stating: “China wants an independent, sovereign and unified Afghanistan.”

Wang noted that a political settlement is the only viable solution for ending the long-term war in Afghanistan.

Mohib’s office stated that the two sides identified terrorism as a common threat that both sides should fight.

“Wang Yi offered that China can increase its efforts, including regionally, in support of peace in Afghanistan,” the organization said.

Meanwhile, Mohib told Wang that “Afghanistan believes all levers of influence should be used to induce Taliban to engage earnestly in peace, including UN sanctions and other avenues where China’s unique capabilities can be helpful.”

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