"Top US commanders believe they have tentative White House approval to leave just over 4,000 US troops in Afghanistan beyond November, delaying a full American pullout until after the presidential election," says a report by the Los Angeles Times, citing unnamed US officials.
“The plan, worked out at a meeting between Pentagon and White House officials late last month, would represent an about-face for President Trump. He has pushed for a complete withdrawal of the 8,600 troops now in Afghanistan by the election, seeing a pullout as a much-needed foreign policy achievement as his reelection prospects have deteriorated,” the report said.
There are advocates in Washington for a sustained presence.
Liz Cheney, a member Congress in the US House of Representatives has said that the US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan shouldn’t impact the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.
“We need to make sure that we are denying terrorists safe havens, we need to make sure that we are able to continue counter-terrorism activity. Al Qaeda, ISIS, number of those same terrorist groups continue to operation in Afghanistan,” said congresswoman Liz Cheney.
A number of Afghan military experts have also said that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan before a peace agreement would be dangerous.
“Such a move will create major problems for the United States and they will attack on their own soil,” said Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, the former deputy minister of interior for security affairs.
Currently, the US has approximately 8,600 soldiers in Afghanistan, according to the latest reports.
Last month, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Central Command, said the United States has reduced its troop level to 8,600 in Afghanistan, fulfilling the first phase of the planned withdrawal specified in the US-Taliban deal signed in Doha in February.
The withdrawal of the US forces is a key part of the US-Taliban agreement, but US officials have emphasized that the troop pullout will be dependent on conditions on the ground.
The US-Taliban agreement also calls for the full withdrawal of the US military from the country by May 2021 if the Taliban meets the conditions of the deal, including severing ties with terrorist groups.
Based on the agreement, the US would reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600 within 135 days of signing the deal, which is mid-July. Now it seems that the target has been reached almost 25 days ahead of the agreed date.
Gen. McKenzie said the full withdrawal is an “aspirational” commitment and that “conditions would have to be met that satisfy us that attacks against our homeland are not going to be generated from Afghanistan.”
The Taliban committed in the agreement to cut their ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
“It can have severe political and security impacts for the future of Afghanistan, therefore, there are expectations that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan should be a responsible withdrawal,” said Jawed Jawed, a military analyst in Kabul.