The United States plans to cut its troop levels in Afghanistan to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday, Reuters reported.
Esper added detail to remarks President Donald Trump made earlier this week.
The US will reduce its military presence in Afghanistan to about 4,000 troops “very soon,” said President Donald Trump, in an interview with Axios on HBO.
“We are largely out of Afghanistan,” Trump said in an interview with the news website Axios which was filmed on Tuesday, July 28, and aired Monday, Aug. 3, on HBO.
“We’ll be down in a very short period of time to 8,000, then we’re going to be down to 4,000, we’re negotiating right now,” Trump said.
However, he did not specify exact times.
The US-Taliban agreement signed on February 29 calls for the US to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and it also called for the Afghan government to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in return for the Taliban’s release of up to 1,000 government detainees.
The Taliban has released around 1,000 detainees.
The Afghan government, under US pressure, has freed around 4,600 Taliban prisoners in accordance with a list provided by the Taliban, but has balked at releasing the remaining 400 prisoners on the list, saying these detainees have committed serious crimes.
The Afghan government is convening a consultative Loya Jirga, the grand assembly of Afghan elders and representatives, to find a consensus on the decision to release these 400 Taliban prisoners who are accused of crimes including murder, drug trafficking, and abduction, a senior government official said on Monday.