US Weighs Sizable Drawdown in Afghanistan, Officials Say
President Donald Trump is considering withdrawing roughly half of the more than 14,000 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, senior administration officials say.
Under the reported plan, about 7,000 U.S. troops would start coming home in January, and the rest would exit in the coming months in a phased drawdown.
There was no comment from the Pentagon or U.S. Central Command.
The U.S. troops are part of a non-combat NATO force whose primary mission is training and advising Afghan forces in taking over responsibility for security in their country.
The comments from the U.S. officials came a day after Trump’s stunning announcement that the U.S. would pull its troops out of Syria.
“I think it shows how serious the president is about wanting to come out of conflicts,” one official told The Wall Street Journal. “I think he wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”
The Trump administration has been looking for a negotiated settlement of the war in Afghanistan, which would include talks with the Taliban.
Earlier this week, Defense Secretary James Mattis, who announced Thursday that he would step down in February, said the conflicts in Afghanistan have been going on for almost 40 years and enough is enough.
“It’s time for everyone to get on board,” Mattis said, and support those who are seeking peace, including the U.N. and the presidents of Afghanistan and India.
But some White House insiders said Mattis was not pleased by Trump’s decision to start pulling U.S. forces out of Afghanistan.
Mattis did not specially mention Afghanistan in his resignation letter to Trump, but said the president has the “right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”