US to reduce troop levels to less than 5,000 by end of November

Washington:US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday that the United States will withdraw the number of troops in Afghanistan to below 5,000 by the end of November.

“We are going down to a number less than 5,000 before the end of November,” Esper said in an interview with Fox News. Esper said the Pentagon would still need to brief members of Congress on the plan, and would also need to ensure the “United States is not threatened by terrorists coming out of Afghanistan.”

This comes after US President Donald Trump said in an interview with Axios last week, he would like to have “probably anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000” troops in Afghanistan by the time of the election on November 3.

Over the past six months, the US has reduced the number of troops to about 8,600 from 14,000.

This was in accordance with the Doha agreement, signed in February, between Washington and the Taliban.

However, US officials have stated that the second phase will be conditions-based, but have yet to define this.

In his interview last week, Trump told Axios he will reduce American troop levels in Afghanistan down to about 4,000 “very soon”.

He said: “We are largely out of Afghanistan”. “We’ll be down in a very short period of time to 8,000, then we’re going to be down to 4,000, we’re negotiating right now”, he said adding that the US had “been there now for 19 years and we will be getting out.”

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