President Donald Trump said Wednesday he wants all U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan by Christmas, speeding up the timeline for ending America’s longest war.
“We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Trump’s remarks came hours after his national security adviser Robert O’Brien’s indication that the United States will reduce its troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 early next year.
“When President Trump took office, there were over 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan. As of today there are under 5,000 and that will be reduced to 2,500 by early next year,” O’Brien said earlier Wednesday at an event at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L1) attends a transfer ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, U.S., August 4, 2017 for two American soldiers killed in a car bomb attack in Kandahar, Afghanistan, August 2, 2017. /Getty
A landmark deal between the U.S. and the Taliban in February said that foreign forces will leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counter-terrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government.
Trump and other officials have said that the United States will go down to between 4,000 and 5,000 troops in Afghanistan around November. Beyond that, officials have said that a reduction will depend on conditions in Afghanistan.
The White House’s plan for the drawdown will almost certainly be subject to review should Trump lose his bid for a second term in next month’s election.
Taliban and Afghan government-backed negotiators have agreed on a broad code of conduct to advance the intra-Afghan peace talks in Qatar, even as key differences between the two warring sides remain, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing three official sources.