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US to ‘significantly’ downsize military presence in Afghanistan

US to ‘significantly’ downsize military presence in Afghanistan

The US Department of Defence has revealed that it expects fewer than 5,000 troops to remain in Afghanistan by the end of November.

The US Department of Defence has revealed that it expects fewer than 5,000 troops to remain in Afghanistan by the end of November.

David Helvey, the US Assistant Secretary for Defense, Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, has told the national security subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that between 4,000 and 5,000 military personnel will remain in Afghanistan following a partial withdrawal of troops over the coming months.

Assistant Secretary Helvey noted remarks made by US President Donald Trump in August, who said conditions in Afghanistan were sufficient enough to warrant a reduction to the size of the US’ presence.


"We've long maintained that our force presence in Afghanistan is conditions-based," he said.

Assistant Secretary Helvey said a reduced presence would not curtail efforts to conduct “core aspects” of the US military’s existing missions in Afghanistan, which includes participation in the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission, which is focused on training, advising and assisting the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.

The US also conducts a counter-terrorism operation with Afghani partners to mitigate terrorist threats.

Assistant Secretary Helvey stressed that there are no immediate plans to further reduce the US presence in Afghanistan, but stated that the Trump administration plans to “draw down to zero troops” by May 2021 if conditions of an agreement with the Taliban are met.

"As [Secretary of State Mike Pompeo] said in Doha, the Taliban must uphold their counterterrorism guarantees to the United States," he said.

"We also expect the Taliban to meaningfully participate in Afghan peace negotiations, and to do their part in preventing outside actors from negatively impacting the peace process."

Earlier this year, the US signed an agreement with the Taliban, in which the former committed to a complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, currently totalling 8,600.

However, the agreement also requires agreement also requires the Taliban to cease allowing its members, or other groups, to use Afghanistan as a location from which to threaten the security of the US or its allies.

No US military personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since the signing of the agreement in February.

"Ultimately, what we want to be able to see in Afghanistan is an enduring peace," Assistant Secretary Helvey added.

"In that type of environment [the] terrorist organisations, terrorist groups, will not be able to operate, will not be able to plan, will not be present.

“That's the focus, and we're looking to get the Taliban to adhere to its commitments."

[Related: Defence and industry work to deliver life-saving technology to Afghanistan]