Washington is reportedly preparing to withdraw more than 5,000 troops from Afghanistan as part of an initial peace deal with the Taliban that would include a ceasefire, a media report said Thursday.
The White House did not immediately respond to the news report. Quoting an unnamed US official, The Washington Post reported Thursday that the Trump Administration was preparing to reduce its number of troops in Afghanistan from current 14,000 to 9,000 or 8,000.
According to the daily, the initial agreement would require the Taliban to begin negotiating a larger peace deal directly with the Afghan government. Such an agreement has been an effort of Special US Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. Khalilzad, who left Kabul for Doha, said he had a “most productive visit to Afghanistan” since he took this job as a special representative.
“The US and Afghanistan have agreed on the next steps. And a negotiation team and technical support group are being finalized,” he tweeted. In Doha, Khalilzad is scheduled to hold another round of talks with the Taliban.
“I’m off to Doha, with a stop in Islamabad. In Doha, if the Taliban do their part, we will do ours, and conclude the agreement we have been working on,” he said. A Pentagon spokesman told The Washington Post that the Defence Department had not been ordered to withdraw forces from Afghanistan.
“Our strategy in Afghanistan is conditions-based. Our troops will remain in Afghanistan at appropriate levels so long as their presence is required to safeguard US interests,” Cmdr Sean Robertson told the daily.