Washington, Sep 10 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that within a “short period of time” he will withdraw up to 4,000 US troops deployed in Afghanistan and that he intends to continue scaling down the number of troops in Iraq by 2,000.
Trump made his remarks at a White House press conference.
The president also said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel on Thursday night to Qatar to be present on Saturday at the start of intra-Afghan negotiations.
Trump said that he had received a report on Thursday morning and that “nobody” – presumably meaning no US troops – had died in Afghanistan since February, adding that great “progress” is being made in the wartorn Central Asian nation where the US has had troops deployed to fight the Taliban and other insurgents since 2001.
According to the iCasualties Web page, at least nine US soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan so far this year.
On Wednesday, during a telephone call with journalists, the head of the US Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, revealed that the number of US troops deployed in Afghanistan would be reduced to 4,500 by this November.
In addition, he announced that Washington will reduce the number of US troops in Iraq from 5,200 to 3,000.
The Taliban and the Afghan government on Thursday announced that they will begin talks on Saturday, Sept. 12, in Qatar.
In a statement, Pompeo urged Afghan negotiators to show pragmatism and flexibility in the negotiations.
“The start of these talks marks a historic opportunity for Afghanistan to bring an end to four decades of war and bloodshed,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“This opportunity must not be squandered,” the top US diplomat added.
The start of the talks between the Taliban and Kabul were set to begin last March, shortly after the signing in Doha of the historic pact in which it was agreed that US troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan within 14 months.
Hoever, the process was delayed repeatedly by the lack of agreement between the Afghan government and the insurgents on a key point in the Doha talks: the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners being held by the government and another 1,000 or so members of the Afghan security forces being held by the insurgents.
With the start of the process, the hopes are that almost two decades of continuous warfare will come to an end in Afghanistan, a conflict that had its beginnings with the US invasion in 2001 to topple the Taliban regime following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Since the start of the US invasion, which was replaced by a training mission in 2014, 2,217 US troops have died in Afghanistan.
Washington currently has about 10,000 military personnel stationed on Afghan territory.