New Pentagon plan calls for troops to leave Afghanistan within five years: report

New Pentagon plan calls for troops to leave Afghanistan within five years: report
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The Pentagon is reportedly floating a new plan that would see all U.S. troops withdrawn from Afghanistan within the next three to five years, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The plan is reportedly being offered in peace negotiations that could result in the government in Kabul sharing power with the Taliban, according to the report.

Officials are discussing the plan with European allies, the Times reported, and would cut the roughly 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan by half within the next few months. Under the plan, the 8,600 European and Australian troops stationed in the country would be tasked with training Afghan troops, shifting U.S. forces' focus to counterterrorism operations, according to the Times.


A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Koné Faulkner, told the Times that no plans have been finalized yet, and that the Trump administration is "considering all options of force numbers and disposition" in Afghanistan.

High-level negotiations began between U.S. officials and Taliban negotiators at the group's political office in Qatar on Monday, according to the Times. Among the participants was included Gen. Austin S. Miller, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The talks represent the highest-level negotiations so far between U.S. and Taliban officials as the Trump administration seeks to end America's longest-running armed conflict.

Afghanistan's government, currently led by President Ashraf Ghani, has reportedly not been involved in the ongoing negotiations due to Taliban skepticism of his government, according to the Times.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign MORE's efforts to drawdown U.S. troops have faced criticism in the past.

Last year, Trump surprised lawmakers when he announced plans to end the U.S. mission in Syria and declared that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was defeated. The decision lead to the exit of Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisLawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Trump called top military brass 'a bunch of dopes and babies' in 2017: book MORE and sparked criticism from many Republicans.

The administration earlier this month said they plan to keep 400 troops in Syria indefinitely.

In a speech Thursday, Ghani reportedly warned of the likelihood of Taliban-supported attacks in the days ahead of a peace deal announcement.

“Peace is not easy; it needs courage and bilateral honor,” the Afghan president said, according to the Times.

Updated at 3:13 p.m.