US troop reduction in Afghanistan set to reach 8,600 target ahead of schedule

US troop reduction in Afghanistan set to reach 8,600 target ahead of schedule
The scheduled withdrawal of US military personnel as part of a peace deal with the Taliban is already nearing its mid-July target of 8,600, according to Reuters.
2 min read
27 May, 2020
A US soldier and an local Afghan police officer man a checkcpoint in Nangahar [Getty]
The US has scaled down its troop presence in Afghanistan to just over 8,600, strides ahead of the scheduled reduction agreed with the Taliban in February as part of a peace deal, US and NATO officials told Reuters.

The commitment by the US to cut down its military presence from 13,00 to 8,600 by mid-July was a central tenet of the peace agreement between the Taliban and the US signed earlier this year.

The deal also stipulates that US troops be completely gone from the country by May 2021, conditions permitting.

According to two high-ranking sources in Kabul, the US will likely hit the 8,600 figure by early June, while two anonymous US officials said the target will be reached in the next few days.

“Due to Covid-19 concerns, we are moving towards that planned drawdown faster than anticipated,” one of the officials told Reuters.

The US has reportedly prioritised the removal of non-essential staff and those at high risk of Covid-19 complications.

US President Trump announced on Tuesday that there were “7,000-some-odd soldiers” left in Afghanistan, however  officials made clear that true figure was just above 8,600 troops.

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Trump has reiterated his intention to fully withdraw US military from Afghanistan, but has not specified a completion date.

Some have speculated that ending the conflict - the US' longest-fought war - may become a key pledge of Trump's re-election campaign.

The news comes as hopes grew for an extended ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghan government, after peace prevailed on Wednesday beyond a three-day pause in fighting that began on Sunday to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

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