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U.S. Troops To Leave Afghanistan Within Five Years: Report

(Last Updated On: March 1, 2019)

Under a new Pentagon plan, All American troops would withdraw from Afghanistan over the next three to five years, the New York Times reported.

The rest of the international force in Afghanistan would leave at the same time, after having mixed success in stabilizing the country since 2001.

 NYT reported that the plan is being discussed with European allies and was devised, in part, to appeal to President Trump, who has long expressed skepticism of enduring American roles in wars overseas.

The plan calls for cutting by half, in coming months, the 14,000 American troops currently in Afghanistan. It would task the 8,600 European and other international troops with training the Afghan military — a focus of the NATO mission for more than a decade — and largely shift American operations to counterterrorism strikes.

The New York Times writes that so far, the plan has been met with broad acceptance in Washington and NATO headquarters in Brussels. But American officials warned that Mr. Trump could upend the new plan at any time.

And officials said that even if the peace talks broke down, the United States would go forward with shifting to counterterrorism missions from training Afghan forces.

According to the report, until the final withdrawal, several thousand American forces would continue strikes against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, including on partnered raids with Afghan commandos.

Lt. Col. Koné Faulkner, a Pentagon spokesman, said no decisions had been made as peace talks continued. The Defense Department “is considering all options of force numbers and disposition,” Colonel Faulkner said.

“The Europeans are perfectly capable of conducting the training mission,” James Stavridis, a retired American admiral and former top NATO commander said.

“It is a smart division of labor to have the United States shift the bulk of its effort toward the special forces mission and having the Europeans do the training mission.”

On Monday, American diplomats met with the Taliban in Qatar in the highest-level negotiations yet, including the attendance of Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of the international mission in Afghanistan. The negotiations paused on Wednesday and are set to resume on Saturday.

The two sides have sought to flesh out a framework agreement, decided in principle last month, for the full withdrawal of foreign troops and assurances by the Taliban to prevent terrorist groups that seek to attack the United States from using Afghan territory as a safe haven.

The Afghan government has not been a part of the negotiations because of Taliban reluctance to talk to President Ashraf Ghani or his envoys.

Taliban negotiators deeply oppose the proposal for American counterterrorism troops to remain in Afghanistan for up to five years, and officials were unsure if a shorter period of time would be accepted by the militants’ rank and file.

Some officials believe continued funding for the Afghan military is more important than an enduring international troop presence for the survival of Afghanistan’s government.

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