US scaling back plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan

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TO GO WITH AFGHANISTAN-US-ARMY-CONFLICT-FOCUS BY GUILLAUME DECAMME In this photograph taken on August 12, 2015, a US army soldier stands guard at an Afghan National Army (ANA) base in the Khogyani district in the eastern province of Nangarhar. From his watchtower in insurgency-wracked eastern Afghanistan, US army Specialist Josh Whitten doesn't have much to say about his Afghan colleagues. "They don't come up here anymore, because they used to mess around with our stuff. "Welcome to Forward Operating Base Connelly, where US troops are providing training and tactical advice to the 201st Afghan army corps as they take on the Taliban on the battlefield. AFP PHOTO / Wakil Kohsar (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. military is developing a plan to withdraw about half the number of troops from Afghanistan than was initially expected when President Trump announced a major withdrawal last month.

Although Trump originally instructed the Pentagon to develop plans to pull out approximately 7,000 of the 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, two White House officials predict the withdrawal will only involve half of the 7,000 troops Trump first requested in December, the Washington Post reported.

However, nothing is finalized and officials said that plans could change again. An administration official said Trump has claimed his advisers are pushing him to remain in “all these wars forever,” but Trump is still aiming to eventually pull all troops from Afghanistan.

 “Trust me, he’s heard every single argument on Afghanistan he could hear,” an administration official told the Post.

The Pentagon did not disclose details about the plan, but expressed support for efforts from U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has worked to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan with the Taliban.

“The Department of Defense remains in support of Ambassador Khalilzad’s reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan,” Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Reports about scaling down the number of troops in Afghanistan coincided with Trump’s announcement in December that the Islamic State had been defeated and that troops in Syria were “all coming back and they’re coming back now.” Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced his resignation shortly thereafter.

Despite Trump’s early comments on the troops withdrawal timeline, he tweeted Monday that the U.S. “will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary.” That tweet came the same day the Pentagon announced the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS approved a “conditions-based” framework for the withdrawal of troops in Syria.

National security adviser John Bolton listed several conditions on Sunday during a press conference in Israel, such as Turkey agreeing to not to attack Kurdish allies who have assisted the U.S. in countering ISIS.

The U.S. military is developing a plan to withdraw about half the number of troops from Afghanistan than was initially expected when President Trump announced a major withdrawal last month.

Although Trump originally instructed the Pentagon to develop plans to pull out approximately 7,000 of the 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, two White House officials predict the withdrawal will only involve half of the 7,000 troops Trump first requested in December, the Washington Post reported.

However, nothing is finalized and officials said that plans could change again. An administration official said Trump has claimed his advisers are pushing him to remain in “all these wars forever,” but Trump is still aiming to eventually pull all troops from Afghanistan.

“Trust me, he’s heard every single argument on Afghanistan he could hear,” an administration official told the Post.

The Pentagon did not disclose details about the plan, but expressed support for efforts from U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has worked to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan with the Taliban.

“The Department of Defense remains in support of Ambassador Khalilzad’s reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan,” Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement to the Washington Examiner.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Reports about scaling down the number of troops in Afghanistan coincided with Trump’s announcement in December that the Islamic State had been defeated and that troops in Syria were “all coming back and they’re coming back now.” Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced his resignation shortly thereafter.

Despite Trump’s early comments on the troops withdrawal timeline, he tweeted Monday that the U.S. “will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary.” That tweet came the same day the Pentagon announced the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS approved a “conditions-based” framework for the withdrawal of troops in Syria.

National security adviser John Bolton listed several conditions on Sunday during a press conference in Israel, such as Turkey agreeing to not to attack Kurdish allies who have assisted the U.S. in countering ISIS.

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