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US Military May Exit Afghanistan Within Five Years NYT

US Military May Exit Afghanistan Within Five Years: NYT

WASHINGTON – All American troops would withdraw from Afghanistan over the next three to five years under a new Pentagon plan being offered in peace negotiations that could lead to a government in Kabul that shares power with Taliban, a report published in the New York Times (NYT) claimed.
The rest of the international forces in Afghanistan would leave at the same time, after having mixed success in stabilizing the country since 2001. The plan is being discussed with European allies and was devised, in part, to appeal to President Trump, who has long expressed skepticism of enduring American roles in wars overseas.
The plan calls for cutting by half, in coming months, the 14,000 American troops currently in Afghanistan. It would task the 8,600 European and Australian troops with training the Afghan military — a focus of the NATO mission for more than a decade — and largely shift American operations to counterterrorism strikes.
Various elements of the plan were shared with The New York Times by more than a half dozen current and former American and European officials. It intends to help talks with the Taliban that are being led by Zalmay Khalilzad, the American special envoy.
So far, the plan has been met with broad acceptance in Washington and NATO headquarters in Brussels. But American officials warned that Mr. Trump could upend the new plan at any time.
And officials said that even if the peace talks broke down, the United States would go forward with shifting to counterterrorism missions from training Afghan forces.
Until the final withdrawal, several thousand American forces would continue strikes against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, including on partnered raids with Afghan commandos. The counterterrorism missions, and the military’s dwindling presence, are also critical to allowing the CIA to operate in Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Koné Faulkner, a Pentagon spokesperson, said no decisions had been made as peace talks continued. The Defense Department “is considering all options of force numbers and disposition,” Colonel Faulkner said.
But European allies said they had been consulted about the proposal — a stark contrast to Mr. Trump’s surprise announcement in December to withdraw American forces from Syria.
“The Europeans are perfectly capable of conducting the training mission,” James Stavridis, a retired American admiral and former top NATO commander who is now with the Carlyle Group private equity firm. “It is a smart division of labor to have the United States shift the bulk of its effort toward the special forces mission and having the Europeans do the training mission.”
The prospect of an American military withdrawal has raised fears across the world that it could lead to the fall of the Western-backed government in Kabul and a return to the extremist rule of the Taliban. Before it was ousted in 2001, the Taliban was accused of human rights abuses, prohibited girls from attending school and imposed harsh penalties on accused heretics.
American officials have said any deal to withdraw international forces from Afghanistan must involve a cease-fire agreement and the inclusion of government leaders in the negotiations.
In a speech on Thursday in Kabul, Mr. Ghani warned Afghan security forces to be prepared for possible Taliban attacks ahead of any peace deal.
(Sahar News)

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