Washington to announce 4,000-troop drawdown from Afghanistan amid crucial US-Taliban talks: reports

Washington to announce 4,000-troop drawdown from Afghanistan amid crucial US-Taliban talks: reports
US media claimed the Trump administration will announce plans to withdraw around 4,000 troops from Afghanistan, amid talks with the Taliban in Doha.
3 min read
15 December, 2019
Trump made a surprise visit to Afghanistan last month [Getty]

The Trump administration will announce as early as this week plans to withdraw around 4,000 troops from Afghanistan, US media reported.

Talks between the United States and the Taliban resumed a week ago as the parties sought a path to reduce violence or even reach a ceasefire. 

They were paused by Washington on Thursday, however, after an attack by the militant group near a key US air base north of Kabul that left two civilians dead and dozens injured.

There are 13,000 US troops currently in Afghanistan.

NBC on Saturday cited three current and former US officials as saying the Trump administration intends to announce the drawdown of 4,000 troops from Afghanistan.

Two of those said some of the troops would be redeploying early, while others would not be replaced when they end their term.

CNN cited one official in the Trump administration as saying the announcement on a drawdown could happen this week, but that the "timing remains in flux.”

Read more: CIA-backed 'death squads' accused of Afghanistan 'war crimes'

The State Department did not reply to an AFP request to comment on Sunday, and the Pentagon referred questions to the White House, which had no immediate comment.

According to a draft agreement from September - reached after years of negotiations - the Taliban would be required to commit to certain security measures, agree to talks with the Afghan government and promise a reduction of violence in exchange for a US troop withdrawal. 

US President Donald Trump insisted last month on the need for a ceasefire and made a surprise visit to Bagram air base in Afghanistan on November 28 to celebrate Thanksgiving with troops and meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Trump has previously indicated he wants to wind down US military entanglements abroad where possible.

Major attack

The Taliban attack on the key US military base in Afghanistan Wednesday was a major attack that killed two civilians and wounded more than 70 others.

After a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-packed vehicle outside a hospital building near Bagram military base in Parwan province, seven more gunmen, some wearing suicide vests are believed to have then entered the building.

An Afghan interior ministry spokesman, Nasrat Rahimi, said on Twitter that all the attackers inside the hospital compound were killed fighting Afghan and foreign forces.

At least two Afghan civilians, including one woman, were killed while 73 others were wounded in the explosion that damaged houses up to 300 metres away, Rahimi said.

A Taliban spokesman later claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming that "tens" of US and Afghan soldiers had been killed or wounded.

In a WhatsApp message Zabihullah Mujahid said the militants had detonated a truck bomb outside Bagram base, but denied Taliban fighters had taken up positions inside a hospital.

Afghan and US officials could not immediately confirm if a truck bomb had been used in the attack.

"The attack was quickly contained and repelled ... but the future medical facility was badly damaged," NATO's Resolute Support mission said in a statement.

It said there were no US or coalition casualties but Georgia's defence ministry said five of its soldiers received minor injuries in the attack.

On Monday, The Washington Post reported on thousands of US government documents which showed that senior American officials had insisted progress was being made in Afghanistan despite clear evidence the war had become unwinnable.

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