USA considering reduction of troops in Afghanistan


Afghanistan's security forces rely heavily on USA air power against both the Taliban and an upstart Islamic State affiliate, and Afghan military officials noted the announcement by the Trump administration comes as the country's security is at its worst since 2014.

But with the insurgents controlling large swaths of territory and chronically understrength Afghan forces suffering thousands of casualties a month, even a partial USA withdrawal reduces pressure on the Taliban to strike a deal, the experts and officials said.

"This signals to the Taliban that the serious about negotiating an exit", says Smith, adding that it would erode the militant's skepticism that Washington is open to withdrawing from Afghanistan.

The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a Nato-led mission, known as Resolute Support, and a USA counter-terrorism mission largely directed against groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda.

The Taliban was toppled from power by a US-led invasion in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks masterminded by Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who had been harboured by Afghanistan.

Western media reports have quoted USA administration officials as saying a decision had already been made to withdraw about half of the US troops in the country, although no time frame has been given.

In September 2017, Trump announced the USA would send 3,000 extra troops to the country amid a shift of strategy.

Air Vice Marshal (retd) Shahzad Chaudhry termed the United States decision of partial pullout a "much planned move" and a formal assurance to Taliban for its seriousness in Afghanistan's peace.

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Richard Olson, a former U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said that Trump's plan severely weakened Khalilzad's negotiating hand. This was a resignation, which actually meant that Mattis didn't have any more patience left to tolerate Trump's irrational decision and worldview. "Would you be thinking of a ceasefire if your main opponent has just withdrawn half of their troops?" The decision was precipitated partly by Trump's planned hasty withdrawal of troops in both Syria and Afghanistan.

"I think it shows how serious the president is about wanting to come out of conflicts", a senior U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal about the Syria decision. The U.S. on its part demanded that the Taliban announce a ceasefire and present their plans to join the government.

Intizar Khadim, a political analyst in Kabul, said he did not believe Trump would push to withdraw all US troops, a decision that would likely face pushback from congressional hawks.

"America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress".

But in the years since then, the Taliban's power and reach have soared - and United States troops have stayed on the ground in an effort to stabilise the country.

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that the drawdown will help the peace process in Afghanistan.

While this appears like a decision which has a potential to return the 1990s situation back in Afghanistan, fortunately, regional states such as China, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan are much more prepared and invested to make sure that Kabul doesn't simply implode.