(Source : The Associated Press – Deb Riechman) – Trump: Taliban deal close, US troops to drop to 8,600
President Donald Trump said Thursday the U.S. plans to withdraw more than 5,000 American troops from Afghanistan and then will determine further drawdowns in the longest war in American history.
Trump’s comment comes as a U.S. envoy is in his ninth round of talks with the Taliban to find a resolution to the nearly 18-year-old war. The president said the U.S. was “getting close” to making a deal, but that the outcome is uncertain.
“Who knows if it’s going to happen,” Trump told Fox News Radio’s “The Brian Kilmeade Show.”
Trump did not offer a timeline for withdrawing troops. The Pentagon has been developing plans to withdraw as many as half of the 14,000 U.S. troops still there, but the Taliban want all U.S. and NATO forces withdrawn.
“We’re going down to 8,600 (troops) and then we’ll make a determination from there,” Trump said Thursday, adding that the U.S. is going to have a “high intelligence” presence in Afghanistan going forward.
Trump has called Afghanistan — where the Taliban harbored members of the al-Qaida network responsible for 9/11 — the “Harvard University of terror.”
If terror groups ever attacked America from Afghanistan again, “we will come back with a force like they’ve never seen before,” Trump said. But he added: “I don’t see that happening.”
Al-Qaida insurgents used Afghanistan as a base from which to plan the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the United States. A month later, U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan, where they have remained ever since, making it the longest war in American history. More than 2,400 American service members have died in the conflict.
The top U.S. military officer said Wednesday it’s too early to talk about a full American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Pentagon reporters that any U.S. deal with the Taliban will be based on security conditions on the ground and that Afghan forces aren’t yet able to secure the country without help from allied forces.
“I’m not using the withdraw word right now,” Dunford said. “It’s our judgment that the Afghans need support to deal with the level of violence” in the country today.
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