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US Military Draws Down to Troop Level Ordered by Trump in Afghanistan

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The U.S. military has met its goal of reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan to about 2,500 by Friday.

Christopher Miller, in his final days as the acting secretary of defense, announced the 2,500-troop level, saying it brings the United States “closer than ever to ending nearly two decades of war.”

He said the U.S. remains in position to “ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to harbor those who seek to bring harm to the United States of America.”

President Donald Trump, who ordered the reduction in November, when there were about 4,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, said Thursday that troop levels in Afghanistan had reached a 19-year low.

Last February his administration struck a deal with the Taliban to reduce American troop levels in phases and to be gone by May 2021. It is unclear how the incoming Biden administration will proceed.

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President-elect Joe Biden, who has advocated keeping a force in Afghanistan to ensure that extremist groups like al-Qaida are unable to launch attacks on the United States, faces a number of questions on Afghanistan.

One is how and whether to proceed with fledgling peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Trump in his brief statement alluded to his longstanding desire to get out of Afghanistan entirely.

“I will always be committed to stopping the endless wars,” he said, referring to U.S. wars that have dragged on in Afghanistan since 2001 and in Iraq since 2003.

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Military commanders pulled more than 1,500 troops out of the country in the last few weeks.

At Trump’s order, commanders also cut U.S. troop levels in Iraq to 2,500 from about 3,000 in the same period. Miller confirmed Friday that the Iraq withdrawal had been completed.

He said the Pentagon is planning for troop reductions to zero by May, adding that “any such future drawdowns remain conditions-based.”


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