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article imageUS troops to be reduced below 5,000 in Afghanistan by November

By Ken Hanly     Aug 10, 2020 in Politics
US Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, in an interview broadcast on Fox News last Saturday claimed that the US will have under 5,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of November.
Esper's statement
Esper said:"
Right now, we think that we can do all the core missions, first and foremost being ensured the United States is not threatened by terrorists coming out of Afghanistan. We can do those at a lower level. In the meantime, we see the Afghan peace process — it's not perfect, but it’s moving forward, slowly. You know, it’s a windy road. It’s a rough road."
Trump suggest an even earlier withdrawal
Trump made a similar statement to Esper in an interview with Axio last week but Trump put the withdrawal of troops as being before the election on November 3 at the beginning of the month. Trump said: “We’re going down to 4,000, we’re negotiating right now."
The US Taliban deal signed the end of February calls for the withdrawal of all US and allied troops from Afghanistan by first of May next year. As part of the deal the US was first to reduce troops down from about 13,000 there now. As an ABC article reported: "A weeklong deal to reduce violence will continue, the officials said, as the U.S. immediately draws down its approximately 13,000 troops in Afghanistan to 8,600 and closes five military bases within 135 days. U.S. officials, including Gen. Scott Miller, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, have said that new number is still sufficient to carry out their mission." The US reached this first troop reduction target ahead of time.
The prisoner swap
The peace deal between the US and the Taliban also required the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners while the Taliban would release 1,000 Afghan prisoners they held. However, the Afghan government was not part of the agreement and refused to carry out the swap. However, they have released 4,600 of the prisoners so far claiming that the remaining Taliban are too dangerous to release. As a recent article reports: "The remaining 400 Taliban prisoners have all been convicted or accused of serious crimes, and 156 of them have been sentenced to death. Because of the seriousness of their offenses, the government has been reluctant to release this group. But now, with the Loya Jirga voting to set the inmates free, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has announced his intention to do so."
The Taliban says it is now ready to begin intra-Afghan talks part of the peace process once the prisoner swap is complete. Talks could start as early as this week.
More about US Taliban relations, US troops in Afghan, afghanistan civil war
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