Large US Troop Pullout Planned In Afghanistan, Officials Say

"The Taliban involvement in political process means greater say for Pakistan in Afghan affairs". But earlier this year, he was persuaded by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others military leaders to keep troops on the ground to pressure the Taliban and battle a stubborn Islamic State insurgency. Three U.S. presidents have pledged to bring peace to Afghanistan, either by adding or withdrawing troops, by engaging the Taliban or shunning them, and by struggling to combat widespread corruption in the government.

Taliban insurgents, however, control almost half of Afghanistan and are more powerful than at any time since a 2001 USA -led invasion.

The Wall Street Journal last week reported that at least 7,000 USA forces will be withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Trump's reported decision apparently surprised Afghan officials, even though the US president had previously voiced opposition to the USA war effort there.

While Afghanistan's government was not included in the talks, Kabul was concerned that a hasty agreement between the USA and Taliban negotiators would potentially undermine the country's security. His decision was made public a mere few hours after he abruptly announced the U.S. was withdrawing troops from Syria.

Trump's state of mind is sure to have given a sense of urgency to US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been working to reach a negotiated end to America's longest war and has been pushing for a deal by April.

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

Since then, America has lost more than 2,400 soldiers and spent more than $900 billion in its longest war.

"The sudden decision has come as a shock", an Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, told RFE/RL.

The decision to pull around half of the 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan has stunned and dismayed diplomats and officials in Kabul, and comes amid a renewed push for talks with the Taliban to end the 17-year war. Nearly 17,000 troops from 39 nations take part in NATO's Resolute Support mission helping to train and mentor Afghan security forces.

The officials called America's withdrawal a defeat, comparing it to the U.S.'s evacuation from Vietnam, and Russia's 1979 forced withdrawal from Afghanistan that capped a failed 10-year campaign.

The already worsening security situation in Afghanistan is likely to be exacerbated by a US troop reduction, according to analysts.

Ordinary Afghans have mixed feelings about the presence of US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops.

  • Jon Douglas