White House adviser says troops in Afghanistan to be reduced to 2,500 in 2021
President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said Wednesday that the U.S. would scale back its troop presence in Afghanistan to 2,500 by the beginning of 2021.
“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 go to 2,500 by early next year,” O’Brien said during an event at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, according to Reuters.
Later Wednesday, Trump, who has long pledged to withdraw American troops from foreign military engagements, said that he hoped to have “the small remaining number” of U.S. troops in Afghanistan home by the end of the year, a more aggressive timeline and withdrawal than described by O’Brien.
“We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” Trump tweeted.
O’Brien’s remarks provided more detail about the Trump administration’s plan to draw down troops in Afghanistan amid peace negotiations with the Taliban and Afghan government.
It is likely that the impending presidential election will impact the administration’s plans, particularly in the event that Democratic nominee Joe Biden defeats Trump.
Wednesday marked 19 years since the war in Afghanistan began in the early 2000s.
The U.S. struck a deal with the Taliban in February aimed at ending the near two-decade conflict in Afghanistan.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Doha, Qatar, last month to help spearhead the first round of peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government. Still, violence has persisted in the region and the negotiations are likely to drag on as the sides wrangle over a possible agreement.