Shanahan: US won’t pull troops from Afghanistan without consulting NATO

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanHouse Armed Services chairman expresses confidence in Esper amid aircraft carrier coronavirus crisis Boeing pleads for bailout under weight of coronavirus, 737 fallout Esper's chief of staff to depart at end of January MORE said Thursday that the United States will not pull troops from Afghanistan without consulting its allies.

“There will be no unilateral troop reduction,” Shanahan told reporters in Brussels after meeting with NATO defense chiefs. “That was one of the messages of the meeting today. We'll be coordinated. We're together.”

Reports emerged late last year that said President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says voters should choose who nominates Supreme Court justice Trump, Biden will not shake hands at first debate due to COVID-19 Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE wanted to withdraw a significant portion of the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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The administration’s plans were bolstered last month, when the United States and the Taliban agreed on a draft framework that laid out  a possible withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country.

About half of the U.S. forces are in the country with NATO to train and advise Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban. In a dual mission, U.S. troops also conduct counterterrorism missions against groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and al Qaeda.

Shanahan, who visited Iraq and Afghanistan last week - has stressed that the White House has issued no official order to draw down troops. 

He also noted that if the Washington makes troop cuts, it will first consult with NATO.

“We talked about no division, alliance and unity, and that's how we walked out of the room,” Shanahan said.

He and NATO defense chiefs also discussed how to increase support for Afghan national defense and security forces while putting “even more pressure on the Taliban.”

U.S. European Command head and Supreme Allied Commander of the NATO alliance, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, told reporters he has not been given orders for a troop withdrawal or reduction.

“I don’t have the direction to do it, or the guidance to do it, or the decision to drive it,” Scaparrotti said.