US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of all remaining American forces currently serving in Afghanistan by Christmas, on Wednesday evening. This sudden announcement generated a wave of confusion in his own Department of Defense.
Currently confined in the White House still recovering from COVID19, Trump in his tweet said “We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!”
Ambiguously, this tweet appeared only hours after national security advisor, Mr. Robert O’ Brien announced that the US forces in Afghanistan would further decrease to about 2500 by early next year.
The Pentagon officials have been reluctant to talk about the complete removal of forces in some of the conflicted zones as this may allow terrorist groups to reassemble and launch attacks against their Washington homelands. The officials refused to comment immediately on CNBC’s request for clarity of this impulsive drawdown plan and referred their queries to the White House.
The Department of Defense has refused to give the exact number for Washington’s troops in Kabul but is expected to drop down to about 4500 next month.
Mr. Trump said that this move is a goal post for ending the ‘ridiculously endless conflict’. He has been directing The Pentagon to bring back the troops not only from Afghanistan but from Syria and Iraq as well. But such pledges in the past have often been deserted or left incomplete.
Taliban, on the other side, praised Trump’s Wednesday tweet as a positive step of implementation of the negotiation pact between the so-called ‘Islamic Emirate’ and the United States.
Earlier this year, a peace treaty was inked between the two sides in the Qatari capital of Doha. It aimed a reduction in US forces in Afghanistan to usher a permanent cease-fire. A complete zero out of US & NATO troops in 14 months depending on the Taliban, meeting counter-terrorism conditions.
Amid the fight of re-election, it is unclear whether Trump’s pronouncement indicated a permanent change in policy or reiterated an appeal to the voters weeks before November 3 elections.
An official from Kabul has designated Trump’s abrupt announcement as an impulsive political decision. He said the deal between the US and Taliban laid out a full exit of Washington forces only if certain conditions on counter-terrorism are met but there is no evidence of broken ties between Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Furthermore, the level of violence has sharply increased in the region. He also added that Trump’s tweet has indeed made the job of Afghan Republic more difficult as it will probably make Taliban negotiators less likely to compromise on matters concerning human rights and public liberties.
Washington forces have been in Kabul since after the 9/11 terrorist attack of 2001.
The US and its companions rapidly pushed out the Taliban from power by December 2001 and built military bases across the country.
The number of American troops there reached up to 1 lakh in 2010 and 2011. President Barack Obama dropped the number to about 8400 by the end of his term in 2016.
This trend of minimizing the troops continued during Trump’s presidency. Fewer than 9000 forces currently remain in Afghanistan, as told by a report from The Department of Defense.