US President Donald Trump has ordered to reduce the number of American troops in war-torn Afghanistan before the presidential elections in 2020, his top diplomat said on Monday.
“That’s my directive from the president of the United States,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in response to a question at the Economic Club of Washington DC.
“Before the next presidential election in the United States, would you expect we reduce our troops in Afghanistan?” he was asked.
During the presidential election campaign in 2016, Trump had pledged to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and end America’s longest war.
The Trump administration has intensified its efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of America’s longest war in Afghanistan where the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers since late 2001, when it invaded the country after the 9/11 terror attacks.
US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is currently holding talks with the Taliban to work out an agreement for withdrawal of the US troops and participation of the rebel group in the Afghan government.
“He’s (Trump) been unambiguous: End the endless wars. Draw down. Reduce. It won’t just be us,” Pompeo said.
“Those of you who have served know that resolute support has countries from all across Europe and around the world. We hope that overall, the need for combat forces in the region is reduced,” he said.
“So, yes, it’s not only my expectation. It would be job enhancing,” Pompeo said responding to a question.
However, he refrained from putting a timeline to the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. “I try not to do timelines, but I’m optimistic. We’re not just negotiating with the Taliban. That’s the story. The truth of the matter is we’re talking to all Afghans,” he said.
Pompeo spoke with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last week. “I’m speaking with the opposition, those folks that are not inside the government. We’re speaking with Taliban officials,” he said.
According to the Secretary of State, there’s a path to reduce violence, achieve reconciliation, and still make sure that the American counter-terrorism effort in Afghanistan has a value and the potential to reduce risk here in the US.