Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he wants to bring all U.S. forces home from Afghanistan by Christmas – a plan that came as a surprise to administration officials and puts complicated peace negotiations at risk.
Several officials told the Associated Press that they had not been informed of any such deadline, and military experts said it would be impossible to withdraw all of the 5,000 U.S. troops. Afghanistan And dismantle US military headquarters by the end of the year.
They indicated that the president’s claim was aimed at diverting the news cycle away from coverage of the Coronavirus and that the Pentagon would not act on the matter before the US elections on November 3.
However, the announcement was greeted enthusiastically by the Taliban on Thursday. If Trump continues, the militant group will almost certainly claim a victory, after decades of calling its battle a war against outside aggression.
Not surprisingly, the Taliban welcomed Trump’s announcement that he would bring troops home by Christmas. “They’ve spent 19 years fighting for this,” said Ashley Jackson, director of the ODI Center for the Study of Armed Groups.
This is the last leverage the United States has left in the talks with the Taliban, and Trump proposes to give them up for free.
Without the prospect of U.S. military pressure, the Taliban would have little incentive to stay in Negotiation table With representatives of the Kabul government.
From a practical point of view, the 19-year military disengagement will take much longer than two months.
“It’s October, so no – it’s ridiculous. It simply can’t happen,” said Jason Dempsey, a former infantry officer who served in Afghanistan. For contractors, we will need a uniformed headquarters to oversee the closing and withdrawal of everything we have in the country. “
Trump has made impulsive political statements on Afghanistan on Twitter before, including canceling a summit between the United States and the Taliban last year, shortly before he expected the first signing of the withdrawal agreement.
He also has a record of ordering sudden and total withdrawals of troops from foreign deployments. In most cases, the Pentagon has sought to slow down the pace of the withdrawal, but in some cases, the president has succeeded in bringing the soldiers home.
The Afghan government and Taliban negotiators are currently trying to reach a new political settlement for the country in the Qatari capital. The peace talks were held under the a Withdrawal agreement It took place earlier this year between the Taliban and the Trump administration.
The agreement between the United States and the Taliban stipulated the complete departure of US forces by May 2021, but only if conditions for combating terrorism, including severing ties with Al Qaeda, are met. Some critics of the Doha talks argue that the militants are only time for US forces to leave.
Trump’s plans were announced in a tweet late Wednesday night. White House Doubled “Our forces in Afghanistan will return home by the end of the year,” the official account of the administration said on Twitter in a message Thursday morning.
It was the latest in a long line of personalized policy announcements from Trump that surprised his advisers and his military. National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien said Shortly before Trump tweets, the number of troops will be reduced to 2,500 early next year.
There are currently about 4,500 troops on the ground in Afghanistan, up from more than 12,000 when the agreement was signed in February.
The Pentagon referred all requests for comment on plans to withdraw in Afghanistan to the White House.
The Taliban welcomed Trump’s comments, describing them as “a positive step toward implementation [the] Doha Agreement, ”Jemaah Islamiyah spokesman Muhammad Naim said in a statement, referring to the US withdrawal agreement.
The peace talks were progressing slowly, and negotiators were still trying to lay down ground rules for their discussions. They are currently discontinuing any Islamic school they should use when settling disputes.
Trump has pledged to “end” America’s wars abroad as part of his bid for reelection this year, and has promised to bring troops home from a constellation of conflict zones including Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
But past pledges to bring back forces have often been abandoned, canceled, or only partially completed.
distance He ordered the complete withdrawal of US forces from Syria in October 2019Trump was persuaded to allow some to stay on the understanding that they would protect the oil facilities there. The US military presence remains, but it is nearly half the size of the 1,000-strong force that was supporting the Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
In July, The Pentagon announced that it would withdraw approximately 12,000 soldiers from GermanyAfter Trump called for a complete withdrawal to punish the Berlin government for political differences.
Senior military officials have made clear that it will take years to redeploy this number of troops, and Congress is examining the matter. The withdrawal of deployed foreign forces has diminished as 10,000 US troops are sent to the Gulf following the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January.
Dempsey, now a senior associate fellow in the Army, Veterans and Community Program at the Center for a New American Security, said the Pentagon will wait to see the outcome of the presidential election before carrying out major troop movements.
“I think the lesson we should all have learned after four years is that the president’s perception of his powers does not go beyond his enjoyment of an expanded presence on Twitter,” he said. “We are so used to this kind of quick attempt to win the news round that nobody’s going to talk about it 48 hours from now.”