Trump wants forces reduced in Afghanistan by next US election



US President Donald Trump wants combat forces reduced in Afghanistan by the next US presidential election, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday, introducing a timeline to Washington’s plan for cutting troop numbers there.
Trump’s South Asia strategy, unveiled in August 2017, called for an open-ended deployment of US forces with the goal of compelling the Taliban to negotiate peace with the Kabul government to end nearly 18 years of war.
“That’s my directive from the president of the United States,” Pompeo told The Economic Club of Washington when asked whether he expects Trump to reduce troops in Afghanistan before the November 2020 election.
“He’s been unambiguous: End the endless wars, draw down, reduce. It won’t just be us,” he said, referring to Trump’s directive. “We hope that overall the need for combat forces in the region is reduced.”
The disclosure of a timeline will add to speculation that Trump is prepared to strike any deal with the Taliban insurgency that will allow for at least partial US withdrawal before American voters go to the polls, irrespective of concerns by the US-backed government in Kabul. Pompeo’s comments also come at a delicate moment, as the United States prepares to engage in another round talks with the insurgents. —AP

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