Pompeo: U.S. on Track to Withdraw All Troops From Afghanistan by Spring 2021
We could finally be nearing the end of America’s longest war if talks go according to plan. Last month Trump said the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan will resume with the goal of reducing the current number of U.S. troops there from 8,600 to 4,000 before the election, and it’s on track to be reduced to zero by spring 2021 according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo left Washington last Thursday to head down to Doha to take part in long-delayed intra-Afghan peace talks. Negotiations that the U.S. had initially hoped would begin in early March between the Taliban and Afghanistan government began instead last Saturday. Pompeo met with Taliban co-founder and political deputy Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and members of the Taliban’s negotiating team.
Pompeo reportedly urged the Taliban to “forge a political settlement and reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.”
As Breitbart exclusively reported:
Pompeo told Breitbart News exclusively — after meetings between Afghan government officials and Taliban leaders as part of the beginning of intra-Afghan peace negotiations — that the process is moving along on pace for a full withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the spring of 2021.
Pompeo told Breitbart News that the process for a full withdrawal of all U.S. forces by the spring of next year requires three main conditions of the Afghan government and Taliban leaders.
“The conditionality is really three-fold,” Pompeo said. “One, there is an obligation they have with respect to foreign terrorist groups — primarily al-Qaeda, but all four terrorist groups — they are not permitted, and the language is very clear that they are not permitted and that they have to break with them. Second, they have to engage in these conversations in a way that is substantive and not just physically sit in the room, but they need to have serious conversations and begin to work their way through it. Then, third, they have a responsibility as part of that to ensure that outside actors don’t act as spoilers for this, and there are many hands who would like to see this undone and would like to see America mired in Afghanistan for another 20 years. Both the Afghan government and the Taliban have a responsibility to prevent that. Those are the conditions, we’ll measure them. There’s a set of CT metrics that’s pretty clearly laid out. We’ll measure them and the president will make a decision if there’s sufficient compliance to get us to zero. I think we’re on a pathway to achieve that.”
So, the disclaimer here is that this could all boil down to how well one can negotiate with terrorists (if that’s possible at all). In late July the Taliban launched roughly a dozen rockets around Camp Bastion, an air base used by both Afghan and American forces, violating the Doha agreement signed in February. News of the attacks, which fortunately didn’t result in any casualties, wasn’t leaked to the media until a month after they happened.
On the other hand, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said that he wants to see the U.S. troop reduction in Afghanistan “with or without” a peace agreement, though he wasn’t speaking of a complete withdrawal of troops.
This comes after news that we’ll see a decrease of troops in Iraq this month – a 42% reduction from 5,200 to 3000.