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US troops in Afghanistan at lowest level in 19 years: Trump

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US President Donald Trump speaks to the troops during a surprise Thanksgiving visit at Bagram Air Fieldin Afghanistan, on November 28, 2019. (AFP photo)

US President Donald Trump says the number of American troops in Afghanistan has reached a 19-year low while his tenure ends next week, with thousands of boots still on the ground in the county.

Trump ordered the reduction of US troops in November, when there were about 4,000 troops in Afghanistan.

He said in a brief statement on Thursday that troop levels in Afghanistan reached a 19-year low.

“I will always be committed to stopping the endless wars,” he said.

Trump did not mention the number of remaining troops in the country, though.

There are about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan by Friday.

Acting US Defense Secretary Chris Miller also confirmed the withdrawal in a statement on Friday.

“This force reduction is an indication of the United States’ continued support towards the Afghan peace process,” he said.

The US reached a deal with the Taliban in February last year on the withdrawal of 12,000 US troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban’s halting of their attacks on international forces.

Under the deal, the Trump administration promised to bring the number of US forces in Afghanistan to zero by May 2021.

Miller also said Friday that the Pentagon is planning for additional troop reductions to zero by Ma.

He said that “any such future drawdowns remain conditions based.”

The Pentagon is facing a legal prohibition on completing the drawdown.

The Congress passed a legislation two weeks ago that prohibits the Pentagon to use money from this year’s or last year’s budget on reducing the number of soldiers below 4,000.

Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act, but the House and the Senate voted to override his veto.

The Pentagon could only continue withdrawal under two conditions, provided by the legislation; a presidential waiver or a report to Congress assessing the effect of a further drawdown on the US mission in Afghanistan and the risk to U.S. troops there.

As of Thursday, the Pentagon had met neither of those conditions.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 under the pretext of the so-called war on terror, overthrowing a Taliban regime.

Since the US invasion of Afghanistan, Washington has spent more than two trillion dollars waging the war on the impoverished country. Over 2,400 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed.

The US, Taliban agreement signed in the Qatari capital Doha last year, was intended to result in the reduction of bloodshed in the country, but violence continues to take a heavy toll in the country.

Earlier this month, the US accused the Taliban of carrying out a spate of attacks that targeted government officials, civil society leaders, and journalists in Afghanistan.

The Taliban denies the allegation, saying that US forces had conducted airstrikes against its members in non-military zones.

President-elect Joe Biden, who will take the office next week, is an advocate of keeping a number of forces in Afghanistan.

It is now not clear how Biden will proceed with the deal.

During his time as vice president, Washington pushed the number of its troops in Afghanistan to 100,000.


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