The US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has arrived in Kabul on Sunday. This is Esper’s first trip to Afghanistan as Defense Secretary, AP reported.
Esper believes the US can reduce its force in Afghanistan to 8,600 troops without hurting the counterterrorism fight against al-Qaida and Daesh, the AP reports, but he said any withdrawal would happen as part of a peace agreement with the Taliban.
The US has approximately 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a training and advising mission, and to conduct counterterrorism operations against insurgents.
Recently, the US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, referring to a meeting with Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that a political settlement in Afghanistan will help reduce the burden of war and protect the gains made in Afghanistan.
Khalilzad, who previously engaged in nine rounds of talks with the Taliban, also said that a political settlement in Afghanistan will help protect the United States from terrorism.