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The US Has Reduced Its Military Presence In Afghanistan By 2,000 Troops Despite No Peace Deal

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  • The U.S. has withdrawn 2,000 of its troops from Afghanistan over the past year, Gen. Austin S. Miller, confirmed at a Monday news conference.
  • Secretary of Defense Mark Esper believes the U.S. can get that number down to 8,600 as the U.S. hopes for an end to the 18-year war, he said at a Sunday press briefing during his visit to Afghanistan.
  • Despite the withdrawal of soldiers, Esper said, “The aim is to still get a peace agreement at some point, a political agreement. That’s the best way forward.”

The U.S. has quietly withdrawn 2,000 of its troops from Afghanistan over the past year, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin S. Miller, confirmed at a Monday news conference.

The number of U.S. troops dropped from roughly 14,000 to 12,000 over the last year, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper believes the U.S. can get that number down to 8,600 as the U.S. hopes for an end to the 18-year war, according to The New York Times.

“Over the last year … we’ve reduced in our authorized strength by 2,000, so there’s a constant look as a military commander to optimize the force here, and what it’s based on is understand the risks to the force, risks of the mission, and look at it in terms of capabilities. … And I’m confident that we have the right capabilities,” Miller said.

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Esper said during a Sunday press briefing during his visit to Afghanistan that the U.S. is “confident” it can reduce the amount of troops in the country to 8,600 “without affecting our [counterterrorism] operations.”

“​But … again, we think a political agreement is always the best way forward with regard to next steps in Afghanistan,” Esper added. (RELATED: OPINION: Trump’s Clueless War In Afghanistan)

The withdrawal of troops has come despite that the U.S. has not reached a peace deal with the Middle Eastern country, the Times reported.

“I know what we can go down to and feel confident based on reports I’ve gotten from the commander on the ground,” Esper said, adding that the U.S. hasn’t started “releasing” troops.

“We’ve held our positions, if you will, largely on the ground in Afghanistan,” he continued, explaining later on that the 8,600 troops he plans to keep in Afghanistan would “certainly have counterterrorism forces,” according to the transcript from his Sunday press briefing.

President Donald Trump told reporters outside the White House on Sept. 9 that peace talks with the Taliban “are dead,” adding, “As far as I’m concerned, they are dead,” the Times reported.

Despite the withdrawal of soldiers, Esper said, “The aim is to still get a peace agreement at some point, a political agreement. That’s the best way forward, and I’ll leave it to State Department to comment on where things stand,” according to the transcript from Sunday.

The U.S. has invested $78 billion into Afghanistan security forces alone with hopes of reducing the Taliban’s power, but 65% of Afghans still live under Afghan government control, according to a 2018 quarterly progress report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Billions in U.S. spending also aimed to help the country’s gross domestic product growth. Afghanistan reached a high GDP of $669 per capita in 2012, which has since decreased in part because of the withdrawal of U.S. troops since 2014. Additionally, the U.S. invested $8 billion in anti-opioid efforts and $126 billion in direct relief and reconstruction investment in the country, but both projects failed, the SIGAR report notes.

Fifty-eight percent of Americans in general support an end to the war in Afghanistan while 59% of U.S. veterans support an end to the war, according to a July Pew Research Center poll that surveyed 1,087 general U.S. individuals and 1,284 U.S. veterans with margins of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points and plus or minus 3.9 percentage points, respectively.

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