Posted on December 21, 2018
Reports, citing unnamed officials, say about 7,000 troops – roughly half the remaining US military presence in the country – could go home within months. The reports come a day after the president announced the country’s military withdrawal from Syria.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Trump’s defence secretary, Jim Mattis, announced his resignation from his post.
In his letter of departure, Gen Mattis strongly hinted at policy differences with the president, but did not cite troop withdrawals directly. Before his election, Mr Trump repeatedly publicly advocated leaving Afghanistan, but last year he indicated he would keep boots on the ground indefinitely to prevent the country’s collapse amid a Taliban resurgence. Reports about the sharp reduction of forces emerged on Thursday, but have not been confirmed by US defence officials.
Afghan officials have insisted they are not concerned about the withdrawal. “The fact that a few thousand foreign troops whose roles are primarily advisory and technical support will exit from Afghanistan will not have an impact on security situation,” presidential spokesman Harun Chukhansori told the BBC’s Afghan service. He added that “Afghan security forces have had full responsibility of security affairs” since 2014.
However, US military reports suggest that Taliban control large swathes of Afghanistan – while a BBC study in January found that Taliban fighters were openly active in 70% of the country.