Trump seeks full withdrawal from Afghanistan


-Says it’s time to go back, 19 years war was enough
-Plans to minimize US troop presence in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump Tuesday suggested a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan but did not set a target date.
“We are there 19 years and I think that’s enough … we want to bring our soldiers back home, we can always go back if we have to,” Trump told reporters at a White House news conference, underlining that the U.S. military is not meant to be a police force.
Trump denied Thanksgiving Day as the set date to pull out, saying he had no target. “Over a period of time, but as soon as reasonable,” he added.
Trump’s response came as media reports said Pentagon is drawing up plans to bring U.S. troops home before the presidential election.
Citing several officials, The New York Times wrote in a Tuesday piece that senior military officials are set to brief Trump in the coming days on options for a full withdrawal from the central Asian country, with one possible option being to pull out before the election.The article said that senior military officials believe a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan would destroy the peace deal reached in late February with the Afghan Taliban.
The Pentagon said earlier this month that the United States was committed to the troops’ drawdown plan stipulated in the agreement, despite continued violence in the war-torn country.
Under the agreement, the United States would reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 within 135 days, and all the U.S.-led coalition forces would return home within 14 months from Afghanistan if the Taliban meets the conditions of the agreement, including severing ties with terrorist groups.
Meanwhile, U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan is down to nearly 8,600, well ahead of a schedule agreed with Taliban militants in late February, in part because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, U.S. and NATO officials said.
A key provision of the Feb. 29 agreement between the Taliban and the United States – to which the Afghan government was not a party – involved a U.S. commitment to reduce its military footprint in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 by mid-July and, conditions permitting, to zero by May 2021.
Two senior sources in Kabul said the 8,600 target was likely to be achieved by early June.
Two U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the United States was close to 8,600 troops and could reach that number in coming days.
“Due to COVID-19 concerns, we are moving towards that planned drawdown faster than anticipated,” one of the officials said.
The other U.S. official said the United States had focused on quickly removing non-essential personnel and those considered to be at high risk from the virus.
All four sources asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump there were “7,000-some-odd soldiers” in Afghanistan but officials clarified that number was slightly over 8,600 troops.
Trump renewed his desire for a full military withdrawal from Afghanistan but added that he had not set a target date, amid speculation he might make ending America’s longest war part of his re-election campaign.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, have sought to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul and reimpose Islamic rule. They dismiss the Kabul government as a puppet of the United States.–Agencies