President Trump is taking actions to severely cut the number of United States military troops stationed in Afghanistan, minimizing the U.S. presence in the country.
For years, Trump has campaigned against any further involvement in the country since the U.S. has been there for more than a decade with very little to show for it. Trump announced on Thursday that he would be reducing the number of U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan from 14,000 to 8,600.
The Associated Press reports:
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, who campaigned on ending the war, said the U.S. was “getting close” to making a deal, but that the outcome of the U.S.-Taliban talks remained uncertain.
“Who knows if it’s going to happen,” Trump told Fox News Radio’s “The Brian Kilmeade Show.”
Reducing the U.S. troop level to 8,600 would bring the total down to about where it was when Trump took office in January 2017. According to the NATO/Resolute Support mission, the U.S. had 9,000 troops in Afghanistan in 2016, during the Obama administration, and 8,000 in 2017.
In a statement to Fox News Radio, Trump said the U.S. would continue to maintain a presence in the region, but that it would be one committed to intelligence and not combat operations: “We’re going to keep a presence there. We’re reducing that presence very substantially, and we’re going to always have a presence. We’re going to have high intelligence.”
Trump in Fox Radio interview: "We're always going to have a presence" in Afghanistan. "We're going down to 8,600 and then we'll make a determination from there"
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) August 29, 2019
Seeking to avoid the mistake of former President Obama (when he pulled troops out of Syria precipitating the rise of ISIS), Trump cautioned the Taliban that any terrorist actions would motivate the U.S. to “come back with a force like they’ve seen never before.”
The Associated Press reports the war in Afghanistan has been the longest-running war in U.S. history:
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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.
A Taliban spokesman also has said that they’re close to a final agreement. But even as the talks go on, there are persistent attacks by the Taliban across Afghanistan, and an affiliate of the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, has taken root in the country and is expanding its base.
“Taliban and ISIS are still potential threats for the national security of Afghanistan and the US. The Afghan government strongly believes that any reduction of US forces in Afghanistan will be based on conditions on the ground,” Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said in a statement.
He added that the Afghan government hopes that Afghanistan and the U.S. will continue to fight international terrorism together as the countries have done for many years.
“The level of threats from the Taliban and ISIS has increased in Afghanistan and it is therefore needed now more than any other time to counter them together and make sure that we will not leave any gap that would give the Taliban an opportunity to turn this country again in to a safe haven for international terrorists,” he said.