Reuters in a report on Friday quoted a US general saying that the United States military is expected to trim troop levels in Afghanistan as part of an efficiency drive by the new commander.
The report said that the US general estimated that the cut may exceed 1,000 forces.
Quoted by Reuters, Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the US military’s Central Command, said the decision to reduce some of the roughly 14,000 American forces in Afghanistan was not linked to those peace efforts.
Instead, he said it was part of an effort by Army General Scott Miller, who took over the more than 17-year war effort in September, to make better use of US resources.
“This is something that he started as he got into the position here and was looking at how we (can) be as efficient and as effective as we can be on the ground,” Votel said in an interview during a trip to Oman.
According to Reuters, other sources offered lower estimates. Diplomatic sources believe the efficiency push, which has been raising eyebrows in Kabul, was already driving down US troop levels.
“We’re watching this very closely,” Reuters quoted a senior Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It is clear General Miller’s desire to streamline is already having an impact on numbers.”
Asked whether Miller would likely cut more than 1,000 troops from Afghanistan under the efficiency drive, Votel said: “He probably will.”
Votel added that some troops could be moved “over the horizon,” still remotely supporting the war effort from overseas. That, he said, would also reduce vulnerabilities in America’s longest war.
“This is his decision as commander here - how he most effectively uses the resources that he has and trying to be as efficient as he can be,” Votel said, without offering a specific estimate of exactly how many troops Miller may withdraw.
According to the Reuters report, US forces spokesman in Afghanistan, Colonel Dave Butler, had declined to speculate on future troop levels. But Butler said Miller would still have surge capabilities into Afghanistan when needed for specific missions.
This comes after President Ashraf Ghani recently sent a letter to Trump offering to reduce US expenses in Afghanistan.