US President Donald Trump announced plans on Thursday to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan by more than 5,000 troops.
“We’re going down to 8,600 and then we’ll make a determination from there as to what happens,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Radio. “We’re reducing that presence very substantially and we’re going to always have a presence.”
The statement comes as the United States and Taliban have been talking over the last year in an effort to find an end to the 18-year conflict, the US’ longest-ever war.
The two sides have been in talks in Qatar in recent weeks and there appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel as a Taliban spokesman said a deal is “close.”
Read more: Afghanistan’s rights activists wary of US-Taliban talks
Reducing the US troops to 8,600 would bring the total down to approximately the same level it was at when Trump arrived in the White House in January 2017. It had reached a peak of about 100,000 in 2011.
If terror groups ever attacked America from Afghanistan again, “we will come back with a force like they’ve never seen before,” Trump said.
Al-Qaida militants maintained bases in Afghanistan, where they planned the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. US troops invaded Afghanistan a month later and have been deployed there ever since.
After the United States, the biggest military presence in Afghanistan by some distance, aiding the NATO mission, are Germany, with 1,300 troops, and the UK, with 1,100, according to figures issued by the military alliance in June.
jsi/sms (AP, dpa)