U.S. considering substantial reduction of troops in Afghanistan

Geraldine Edwards
December 25, 2018

Following the U.S. announcement of withdrawing half of its 14000 troops stationed in Afghanistan, a Taliban official was quoted by media as saying: "Frankly speaking, we weren't expecting that immediate USA response. we are more than happy".

The Taliban already control vast amounts of territory and are causing significant Afghan troop casualties.

"If you're the Taliban, Christmas has come early", a senior foreign official in the Afghan capital told AFP news agency on the condition of anonymity. "Would you be thinking of a ceasefire if your main opponent has just withdrawn half of their troops?" Moreover, it's not clear whether Trump even informed his team and sought their input regarding the timing of his announcement irrespective of whether this was a right decision to take when Washington was in talks with the Afghan Taliban.

"My assessment is the Taliban also realises they can not win militarily", Miller told NBC. "It also weakens the Ghani government which has staked so much on the U.S. commitment", said Marvin Weinbaum of the Middle Eastern Institute.

"I believe the Taliban will see [a US withdrawal] as a reason to stall, and therefore it disincentivizes the Taliban to actually talk to the Afghan government, which it has refused to do", Bill Roggio, an Afghanistan analyst with the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told AP.

A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani said "if there is any reaction by the Afghan government, we will share it later".

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"The US has not consulted us on the withdrawal and today we will start meetings to discuss it", said one Western diplomat in Kabul.

Officials now worry that any move to withdraw United States troops this year could dampen those prospects and simply encourage the Taliban to wait it out until they can take advantage of the gaps when the forces leave.

However, none of this indicates that a decision was made during the first round of talks to announce a withdrawal of half of the U.S.'s forces from Afghanistan.

The departure of Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, who announced his resignation on Thursday over policy differences with Trump, could also affect coordination with allies.

He said: "If we continue our present course we are setting in motion the loss of all our gains and paving the way towards a second 9/11".

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The House of Representatives plans to vote in January on a new War Powers Resolution introduced by California Rep. Ro Khanna that would effectively end us military intervention on behalf of Saudi Arabia in the Yemeni civil war.

Reports, citing unnamed officials, said about 7,000 troops - roughly half the remaining United States military presence in the country - could go home within months.

Since then, America has lost more than 2,400 soldiers and spent more than 900 billion dollars (£711 billion) in its longest war.

In an interview with Afghanistan's TOLO TV on Thursday - hours before the withdrawal plans were announced - he noted Trump had campaigned for president on a promise to end the Afghan war, which has already cost Americans almost $1 trillion.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban welcomed Trump's partial pull out, with a spokesman saying the group was "more than happy".

The news followed a two-day meeting in Abu Dhabi between U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives at which the two sides discussed the withdrawal of global forces and a ceasefire in 2019.

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At least 20 Afghan civilians, including 12 children, were killed in an airstrike that was meant to target a commander in the eastern province of Kunar late on Friday, local officials said.

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