News   /   Politics

Trump says to withdraw forces from Afghanistan by year's end

File photo shows US forces loading onto a Chinook helicopter to head out on a mission in Afghanistan, on January 15, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

The United States is planning to withdraw all of its forces from Afghanistan by the end of the year, speeding up the timeline for ending America's longest war.

President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that "We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!"

Trump's remarks come one month before the November election in which the president, trailing in the polls, has sought to show that he is making good on his 2016 promise to end "endless wars."

But, just hours before the Trump's tweet, US national security adviser Robert O'Brien said the United States had less than 5,000 troops in Afghanistan currently and would go down to 2,500 by early next year.

"Ultimately, the Afghans themselves are going to have to work out an accord, a peace agreement. ... It's going to be slow progress, it’s going to be hard progress, but we think it’s a necessary step – we think Americans need to come home," O'Brien said.

In a deal clinched between the US and the Afghan Taliban militant group in February, the United States promised to pull out all its troops by mid-2021 in return for the Taliban to stop their attacks on US-led occupation foreign forces in Afghanistan.

The Taliban agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government.

The Afghan government and Taliban last month opened peace talks in Qatar, even as key differences, including over a ceasefire, remain between two sides.

Speaking earlier Wednesday, the veteran US diplomat who negotiated with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, voiced guarded hope for the talks.

"The overwhelming majority of the Afghans would like to see an end to the conflict," Khalilzad, speaking by video from Doha, told a forum of the University of Chicago's Pearson Institute.

"I believe that the Taliban are quite serious about the negotiations. Many thought that they wouldn't sit across the table from the Afghan government -- that all they wanted was an agreement for the withdrawal of US forces. But they are now sitting across the table."

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, visiting Qatar on Tuesday, called on the Taliban to "have courage" and declare a national ceasefire.

The Trump administration had pressed Ghani's government to release some 5,000 Taliban prisoners, a condition of the militants to start talks.

Afghan forces and the Taliban are still locked in bloody clashes while the talks have been taking place in Qatar. Many Afghan soldiers and Taliban fighters as well as dozens of civilians have been killed in recent weeks.

"The level of violence is too high as far as we're concerned," Khalilzad said, although he asserted that Afghan civilian and military casualties had declined in the first half of 2020.

The US invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban-run government in 2001 on the pretext of fighting terrorism following the September 11 attacks in New York.

Afghanistan has been gripped by insecurity since the US and its allies invaded the country as part of Washington’s so-called ‘war on terror’ in 2001. Many parts of the country remain plagued by militancy despite the presence of US-led foreign troops.

American forces have since remained bogged down in Afghanistan through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now, Donald Trump.

About 3,560 US-led forces have been killed, along with unknown numbers of Afghan troops and Taliban militants. More than 100,000 Afghans have been killed or injured since 2009 when the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began documenting casualties.

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku