The Trump administration could cut the number of troops in Afghanistan as part of potential negotiations with the Taliban as a step to ending the war there, according to U.S. officials The Washington Post cited Thursday.
It is a big step toward ending the 17-year-long war, a goal President Donald Trump has spoken about at length. Trump said the long-running war was “ridiculous” but also said that “if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth” on July 22.
“I would say that they are 80 or 90 percent of the way there,” an unnamed official told WaPo. “But there is still a long way to go on that last 10 or 20 percent.” (RELATED: Trump: ‘I Would Like To Just Get Out Of’ Afghanistan)
Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich told the Daily Caller News Foundation on Friday that no orders to draw down troops have been made.
“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 U.S. interests,” Rebarich said.
The initial agreement would cut the number of U.S. troops from around 14,000 to around 8,000 or 9,000 in exchange for a ceasefire and the Taliban’s renouncing of al-Qaeda, officials reportedly said. The reduction would bring the number of troops in the country back to about the same level when Trump took office, according to WaPo.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid declined to comment about the likelihood of such an agreement, reported WaPo.
A spokesman for Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, declined to comment to WaPo, but two defense officials told the paper that Miller was open to it.
“Neither side will win it militarily, and if neither side will win it militarily you have to move … towards a political settlement here,” Miller told ABC News during a February interview.
Trump’s top diplomat in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been at the forefront of negotiations with Taliban leaders, who prefer to speak with U.S. representatives because they consider the Afghan government a U.S. mouthpiece, reported The Associated Press.
Wrapping up my most productive visit to #Afghanistan since I took this job as Special Rep. The US and Afghanistan have agreed on next steps. And a negotiating team and technical support group are being finalized.
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) July 31, 2019
“Wrapping up my most productive visit to Afghanistan since I took this job as Special Rep. The US and Afghanistan have agreed on next steps. And a negotiating team and technical support group are being finalized,” he wrote Wednesday on Twitter.
Finding a solution to the U.S.-involved conflict in Afghanistan has been a campaign talking point for Democrats in the 2020 race. The two well-known veterans in the race, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, committed to bringing all U.S. troops home within a year of being in office, reported Vox.
The White House did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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