US to withdraw ′significant′ number of troops from Afghanistan: reports | News | DW | 21.12.2018
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US to withdraw 'significant' number of troops from Afghanistan: reports

After announcing the complete withdrawal of US troops from Syria, the US looks set for a major pullout from Afghanistan. The reported plan has prompted mixed reactions on the part of Afghan officials and Western partners

US President Donald Trump will withdraw a large contingent of US troops from Afghanistan, US officials told media outlets on Thursday. 

There are 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan, thousands of whom will be withdrawn, officials told AFP and Reuters news agencies. The Wall Street Journal reported that more than 7,000 troops would be removed. 

"That decision has been made. There will be a significant withdrawal," an official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Read more: Mattis' exit leaves Donald Trump surrounded by yes-men

Shortly after two unnamed officials spoke to Reuters about bringing troops home from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced he was resigning.

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'Too early to say anything'

In remarks carried by the Reuters news agency, a senior Afghan government official said such a withdrawal would "certainly affect overall operations" but that it would first have to be seen which units would depart first.

"It is too early to say anything for now," he said. "Depending on how the Taliban react, the government might ask forces to reduce operations."

Haroon Chakansuri, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, however said that the pullout would not impact on overall security because US forces had been in the country chiefly to give assistance and advice to Afghan troops.

Read more:More journalists killed globally in 2018, report says 

'Early Christmas'

Some foreign diplomatic officials in Kabul are less upbeat than this, with one telling the news agency Agence France-Presse that "If you're the Taliban, Christmas has come early."

"Would you be thinking of a ceasefire if your main opponent has just withdrawn half their troops," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said declined to comment on reports of the pullout, but stressed the alliance's continued commitment to its support mission in Afghanistan.

"Earlier this month, NATO foreign ministers expressed steadfast commitment to ensuring long-term security and stability in Afghanistan. Our engagement is important to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists who could threaten us at home," she said.

 Some of the US forces deployed in Afghanistan are there as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission, which trains and advises local forces. Others are members of a US-led counterterrorism mission. Initial reports have not made it clear which soldiers would be the first to withdraw.

Read more: Afghanistan: Peace without women's rights? 

17 years of conflict

The withdrawal of the troops from Syria and Afghanistan could have monumental repercussions for the region.

The decision runs counter to the advice of Trump's senior security and military advisers. It was only earlier this year that Trump committed thousands of new troops to Afghanistan, where the Taliban have made major gains and have been slaughtering local forces in the thousands. This decision could hamper peace efforts with the Taliban.

More than 2,400 US forces have died in the 17-year-old war. At least 100,000 Afghans have died in the conflict.

Read more: Civilian deaths hit record high in Afghanistan: UN

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tj,aw/ng (AFP, Reuters)

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