The United States recently started drawing up plans for an abrupt withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan, NBC reported, citing three current and former US defense officials.
The contingency planning is ongoing, and includes the possibility of President Donald Trump ordering all American troops out of Afghanistan within weeks, wrote the NBC in an article, quoting current and former US defense officials as saying.
Officials cautioned, however, that the planning is a precaution and there is currently no directive from the White House to pull American troops out of Afghanistan.
But the US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that counterterrorism operations are critical for peace in Afghanistan and to ensure that the country is no longer a safe haven for terrorists.
“Counterterrorism operations remain critical to our efforts to achieving peace and ensuring terrorist organizations cannot find safe haven in Afghanistan,” said Esper in a joint press briefing with acting Interior Minister Andarabi, Minister of Defense Assadullah Khalid, and Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
At the same press conference, General Miller said that over the last year the US reduced the number of American soldiers in Afghanistan by 2,000.
“You are aware as we work in Afghanistan with our partners, we are always looking to optimize the force. As part of our optimization, over the last year, at least 2,000 were reduced,” said Miller.
This comes as the US peace envoy for Afghanistan began a trip to Brussels, Paris, and Moscow to discuss the Afghan peace process.
The Afghan government has said that the settlement in Afghanistan will be possible if the Afghan people and the government take ownership of the talks.
“Dispersed efforts which are outside the control of the Afghan government will not lead to the success of the process,” said Najia Anwari, spokesperson for the State Ministry for Peace Affairs.
What analysts say:
“The Afghan conflict will not be resolved with peace,” said university lecturer Nasrullah Stanekzai.
“When the talks with the Taliban are restarted, this time the talks will also help the start of intra-Afghan dialogue,” said Mawlavi Qalamuddin, a former Taliban member.
In another development, China plans to host intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and Afghan political leaders and members of civil society. Representatives of the Afghan government will attend those talks, a source told the Daily Times on Monday who is based in Kabul and who is familiar with the meeting. He said a 25-member delegation from Kabul is likely to take part in the conference.
“The details of a possible meeting in China have been shared with us. Discussions are moving along in this area. We will share news publicly when it is agreed,” said Kabir Haqmal, spokesman for the National Security Advisor.