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article imageOp-Ed: Trump wants all troops out of Afghanistan amid coronavirus fears

By Ken Hanly     Apr 28, 2020 in Politics
With a peace deal signed in February between the Taliban and the 12,00 US, troops are already being withdrawn from Afghanistan. However, as concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic rise Trump would like to remove all US troops sooner rather than later.
The withdrawal according to the Taliban US agreement
According to the agreemen
t signed the end of February over the following 135 days troop levels would be cut from 12,000 to 8,600 and five US bases would be closed. If both sides keep their commitments then all US forces could leave Afghanistan by spring of 2021. However, it is thought that the US wants to keep intelligence operatives on the ground. It is doubtful that the Taliban would allow this.
The prisoner swap
The US Taliban deal also promises work on a prisoner exchange ahead of Afghan talks due to start on 10 March, with the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in return for the insurgents freeing 1,000 government soldiers. However, the Afghan government was not part of the deal and refused to release the prisoners. There have been attempts to negotiate the release prisoners along with talks but so far these have not resulted in a deal. The Taliban reacted to the government refusal to carry out the swap deal by resuming attacks against it. The US came to defense of the Afghan government exacerbating the conflict and negating any cease fire for now. The situation is exacerbated by conflict within the Afghan government as the presidency of Ashraf Ghani is being challenged by Abdullah Abdullah who held his own inauguration ceremony.
Trump complains continually that US troops should be withdrawn now
The present withdrawal of US troops is apparently going ahead at a rate that will see the deadline down to 8,600 by 135 days or mid-July being met according to Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell a Pentagon spokesperson. However, Trump wants to get all US troops out before the COVID-19 pandemic has time to spread too much in the country.
US officials worried about COVID-19 in Afghanistan
Afghanistan lacks health care and testing facilities. It also shares borders with Iran which has been hard hit by the pandemic, As a result US officials have serious concerns about its possible spread in Afghanistan and among US troops. One former senior US official said that Afghanistan would have a significant coronavirus issue even though it is not manifested itself yet. It will.
As of Monday, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health reported 1,703 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 57 deaths in a country with an estimated population of 35 million.
Trump advisers however, constantly try to talk him out of withdrawing all troops. They argue that if COVID-19 is such a danger to troops they ought to withdraw US troops from Italy which is far worse hurt by the pandemic than Afghanistan. Advisers want to try to fix Trump's attention on something other than his concern about drawdowns from what he had in his presidential campaign called useless wars.
Conclusion
Trump is often inconsistent in his statements and sometimes acts differently than he has stated he would. It remains to be seen if Trump will be convinced by the attempts of his advisers and officials to slow down any withdrawal. If Trump were to withdraw all the US troops now, the US would have little leverage to force the Taliban to keep its side of the peace agreement and would also leave Afghan government at risk of facing a concerted Taliban attack against it. The hawks in the Trump administration will muster all the forces they can to force Trump to slow down if not to stop withdrawal altogether.
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 in Afghanistan, Donald trump, Afghan war
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