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article imageOp-Ed: Trump to leave 4,000 troops in Afghanistan until after election

By Ken Hanly     Jul 4, 2020 in Politics
The US has already reached the reduction of troops in Afghanistan from around 12,000 to a lower level of 8,600 as required by an agreement signed with the Taliban the end of February.
At least 4,000 troops to remain through November presidential election
While withdrawals are expected
to continue even with withdrawals ahead of schedule, US officials now claim that at least 4,000 US soldiers will stay in the country at least until after the US election in November. Trump has been keen to reduce troop levels before the elections thinking that this would help him win another term in office. However, he has appeared to have decided that he would be better off if he leaves some troops in Afghanistan at least until after the election. By doing so, critics will not be able to accuse him of abandoning Afghanistan in his first term. Earlier, Trump seemed to favor withdrawing all US troops before the election.
Pentagon officials warned Trump that
a complete withdrawal before the election could remove leverage to convince the Taliban to start talks with the Afghan government. The Afghan government was not a party to the February agreement and has rejected the terms of a prisoner swap that was part of the agreement. While the Taliban has not been attacking US troops except when they have come to the aid of the Afghan government there have been many attacks with accompanying casualties on the Afghan government forces. Officials also warned that withdrawing all troops by November could force the US to leave considerable quantities of equipment behind.
The benefits of Trump's new position
Trump's position allows him to take credit for his drawdown but there will be still enough troops present for him to reverse course and re-escalate the conflict after the election even though this could have politically negative results. However, one positive consequence is that this could assuage many of his hawk critics who were against the withdrawal in the first place. However, the existing agreement with the Taliban required the reduction to 8,600 and a complete withdrawal is required by May 1 next year, but this is contingent upon the Taliban keeping their part of the bargain. Basically the Taliban are required to ensure that neither Al Qaeda, the Islamic State or any other group use Afghan soil to threaten the US or its allies. Leaving 4,000 troops in Afghanistan through the election does not violate the terms of the agreement with the Taliban as full withdrawal is only required next year on May 1.
The Russian bounty issue
There has been a lot of discussion on the issue of the Russians offering bounties to the Taliban for killing Americans. These reports are from intelligence sources with all the sources being anonymous. There is no confirmation or real evidence that these reports are true. The reports have all the marks of a propaganda psyop campaign. They distract from the peace agreement with the US and Taliban which appears to have disappeared from the news. The appended video talks about the issue. The discussion can easily turn into a defense of leaving troops in Afghanistan. This is a bit strange in that, assuming the reports are true, if the US troops are not there then they cannot be killed because of the bounty. and the Taliban cannot use the bounties to help finance their activities.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about US Taliban releatioons, Afghan US relations, US troops in Afghanistan
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