Mark Esper, former US Defense Secretary, sent a classified memo to the White House about Afghanistan before he was fired by US President Donald Trump, the Washington Post reports, quoting senior officials.
Trump has been pushing for the withdrawal of his troops from Afghanistan by Christmas during his campaign.
After consulting with senior military officers, Defense Secretary Esper sent a classified memo to the White House this month expressing concerns about additional cuts, according to a senior US official familiar with the discussion, quoted by The Washington Post.
The Washington Post reports that conditions on the ground were not yet right, Esper wrote, citing the ongoing violence, possible dangers to the remaining troops in the event of a rapid pullout, potential damage to alliances and apprehension about undercutting the negotiations.
Quoted by The Washington Post, Colin Jackson, who served as a senior Pentagon official overseeing Afghanistan early in the Trump administration, advocated against a withdrawal now.
“We don’t have a single example where pulling the plug has gone well — Vietnam, Iraq,” he said, as quoted in the report. “Not one.”
One former senior White House official said it is not possible for the United States to remove all troops “without crushing the coalition there.”
“We can get down to maybe 4,500,” the official said. “But we cannot be at zero.”
US Sen. Rand Paul also stepped into the debate Wednesday.
“Reminder to those saying withdrawing troops may cause a ‘clash’ with Generals/Pentagon: there is only one Commander in Chief, it is Donald Trump and when he orders the troops out of Afghanistan, the only proper answer is ‘Yes sir,’ ” he tweeted.
The concerns about an early withdrawal from Afghanistan comes as violence has remained high in the country despite efforts to resume peace negotiations in Doha.