19.7 C
Houston
Sunday, November 1, 2020

Pentagon Planning for Possibility of Total Withdrawal From Afghanistan by May 2021

U.S. military officials are planning out the possibility of fully withdrawing from Afghanistan by May of next year, a top official confirmed Tuesday, though Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has not yet issued orders for the total withdrawal.

U.S. officials are aiming at drawing down to 4,500 troops in the Central Asian country by late October or November.

“I’d like to make it clear that secretary has not issued orders to reduce military personnel below this 4,000 to 5,000 level in Afghanistan, although we are conducting prudent planning to withdraw to zero service members by May 2021 if conditions warrant, per the U.S.-Taliban agreement,” David Helvey said in Washington.

Helvey, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, was speaking during a House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security hearing.

Taliban leaders must uphold guarantees made to the United States, including participation in intra-Afghan peace negotiations, Helvey said, for the United States to move forward with withdrawing troops.

“We’ll be watching very carefully to assess the conditions of Taliban compliance with the terms of its agreement, and that will be used to inform decisions on further and future withdrawals,” he added later.

That agreement also includes commitments to counterterrorism.

Taliban negotiator Abbas Stanikzai, center, arrives for the opening session of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the Qatari capital Doha on Sept. 12, 2020. (Karim Jaafar/AFP via Getty Images)

There is an expectation of a reduction in violence “and the violence that we are seeing today is too high,” Helvey said.

At least 57 members of Afghan security forces were killed in clashes this week between the forces and Taliban, Reuters reported, citing security officials.

The violence unfolded as teams representing both sides negotiated in Qatar.

The Taliban has “taken some positive steps,” Zalmay Khalilzad, special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, told the House subcommittee.

“We look for more steps before we are satisfied, and I believe that once we reach 4,500, we’d do an evaluation of ties and actions that they have taken, and make decisions based on that,” he said, adding that the United States could change its force posture if they don’t deliver on their commitments.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), chairman of the subcommittee, said President Donald Trump’s administration has continued to draw down troops despite the Taliban failing to deliver on some promises.

“Despite multiple indications that the Taliban have not fully met their commitments under the February agreement, the Trump administration has steadily withdrawn U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which has ceded much of our leverage to help shape the future of Afghanistan for its people and our national security interests,” he said.

“While we are all eager for our sons and daughters in uniform to return home, it is also important that we do not needlessly or recklessly bargain away the rights and freedoms that the Afghan people have gained at such a huge cost in American, coalition, and Afghan lives.”

Military officials have cast doubt on whether the Taliban can meet its commitments and sever ties with al Qaeda.

“The Taliban has still not shown conclusively that they’re going to break with al Qaeda,” U.S. Central Command commander Gen. Frank McKenzie told reporters on Sept. 9.

Epoch Times Photo
Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan is seen during talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents in Doha, Qatar, Sept. 12, 2020. (Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters)

“As you know, they have been very consistent on not attacking us and the coalition. However, they have continued to go after the Afghan security forces at a pretty high tempo. And there’s some pretty stiff fighting going on as you know, as a result of that.”

He added later, “There are still some things out there that concern me about the Taliban’s either ability or willingness to comply with all the terms of the deal.”

Trump’s longtime goal has been complete withdrawal from what he describes as “endless wars.”

U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and have maintained a presence there to this day.

The drawdown earlier this year saw force levels cut from about 13,000 to 8,600.

“We’re there 19 years,” Trump told reporters in May in Washington. “I think that’s enough.”

McKenzie said 4,500 troops would still enable the military to accomplish “core tasks.”

“We’ve shown more than ample goodwill and our willingness to demonstrate that we don’t want to be an occupying force in this country. But we do have strategic interests, vital interests, that compel us to be certain that these entities, such as al-Qaida and ISIS, can’t be guests there to attack the United States,” he said.

Theepochtimes

Latest news

Watch Live: Donald Trump Hosts a Campaign Rally in Montoursville, PA

President Donald Trump on Saturday will host a campaign rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania.The rally is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. EST.The president is barnstorming the...

Nearly 50% Of BLM Protesters Arrested In Seattle Were White, From Other Cities

An analysis of 95 arrest records from Seattle riots from May reveals that nearly half of all suspects are white are white men from...

What’s Happened To Bitcoin Since Its Whitepaper Appeared 12 Years Ago?

Authored by Robert Stevens via Decrypt.io,In briefOn October 31, 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto published the Bitcoin whitepaper. Since then, Bitcoin's journey has taken in highs and...

Related news

Nearly 50% Of BLM Protesters Arrested In Seattle Were White, From Other Cities

An analysis of 95 arrest records from Seattle riots from May reveals that nearly half of all suspects are white are white men from...

What’s Happened To Bitcoin Since Its Whitepaper Appeared 12 Years Ago?

Authored by Robert Stevens via Decrypt.io,In briefOn October 31, 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto published the Bitcoin whitepaper. Since then, Bitcoin's journey has taken in highs and...

Large US Early Voting Surge as Trump, Biden Make Late Push

A record 90 million Americans have voted early in the U.S. presidential election, data on Saturday showed, as President Donald Trump and his Democratic...

Former James Bond Actor Sean Connery Dies Aged 90

Scottish movie legend Sean Connery, who shot to international stardom as the suave, sexy and sophisticated British agent James Bond and went on to...

Trump edges out Biden in Iowa in gold-standard poll

President Trump has pulled ahead of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Iowa three...

“A Lot Of People Are Leaving”: COVID Shutdowns Have Turned San Francisco Into A Ghost Town

San Francisco has managed to curb the virus slightly in its city - but at what cost? Those paying sky high taxes to live...

Bernie Sanders endorses Sarah Iannarone for Portland mayor

Far-left Portland mayoral candidate Sarah Iannarone, who has described herself as an "everyday anti-fascist" and declared, "I am Antifa," has received a huge endorsement...

Christians Worldwide Mark International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

Millions of Christians worldwide will unite on Sunday, Nov. 1 to join the global body of Christ for the 2020 International Day of Prayer...

Trending News

White House Blocks CDC ‘No Sail’ Order

The Centers for Disease...

Rasmussen poll says 46% of black voters approve of President Trump

A daily tracking poll of President Donald Trump's job approval released Friday showed an eye-popping surge in approval for Trump among black voters. According...

High Potency Marijuana, Psychosis, and Suicide: Johnny Stack’s Story

DENVER—It’s a grief that’s unimaginable. Deep, raw, and ever present. Laura and John Stack are still reeling over the loss of their son to...

WATCH: BLM Protesters Target Jews in Philadelphia While Yelling ‘Synagogue of Satan’

Rioters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, targeted a group of Jews at protests Tuesday evening against the police shooting of an armed black man, calling them...

Former never-Trumper James Lindsay on why he just CAN’T vote for Joe Biden

This is a moment "Cynical Theories" author James Lindsay probably hoped would never come. The liberal mathematician and host of the "New Discourses Podcast"...

Twitter suspends Border Patrol chief’s account for ‘hateful conduct’ over praising border wall

Twitter suspended the account belonging to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan...

UPS Locates Joe Biden-Related Documents That Tucker Carlson Said Were Lost

Delivery giant UPS confirmed Thursday it found a lost trove of documents that Fox News’ Tucker Carlson said would provide revelations in the ever-growing...

Joe Biden Boasts Of ‘Most Extensive’ Voter Fraud ‘In The History Of American Politics’

Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden recently bragged that Democrats have created the “most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American...