US and NATO’s Resolute Support forces commander in Afghanistan Gen. Scott Miller on Sunday said that he “has orders to reduce the US military presence to 2,500” and that “part of this is in line with US-Taliban agreement.”
He said that the troop reduction will be done “in accordance with conditions.”
“Important for the Afghan people to understand that we have discussed this very carefully with the Afghan security forces. We still have a force that’s capable of providing the necessary support to the Afghan security forces. In some cases, it’s a direct combat support. We still have our train, advice and assist mission that takes place and we certainly have the ability to protect our force as well as meet our counterterrorism commitments,” Miller told reporters in Kabul on Sunday.
The Trump administration has said that the number of US forces in Afghanistan will be reduced from roughly 4,000 to 2,500 by mid-January. The decision has faced opposition in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate.
“The presence of NATO in Afghanistan over the last two weeks has been effective in joint counterterrorism efforts and in supporting Afghan forces,” said Rohullah Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.
Miller meanwhile criticized the high level of violence by the Taliban.
“Actually, I have talked with the Taliban about this. The violence is too high. The Taliban violence needs to come down. We have had many discussions about this. What we refer to is a historic opportunity, ongoing peace process, where representatives of the republic of Afghanistan are sitting down with the Taliban and we need to make sure that from the military and security standpoint, and to provide the confidence to the people of Afghanistan, that we give this the best opportunity to be successful,” Miller said.
This comes as negotiators in Doha on Saturday reported that both sides have exchanged their lists about the agenda of the peace negotiations and that the next phase of the talks will begin on January 5.
The negotiating teams of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban earlier this month agreed on procedural rules for the talks. Following their agreement, they held three meetings on the agenda of the negotiations and were expected to start the talks this week.
The negotiators did not mention whether the talks will be convened in Doha or somewhere else.