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US mulls smaller force presence in Afghanistan

US mulls smaller force presence in Afghanistan

Dec 12, 2019 - 11:45

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): The US defense secretary has evinced an interest in cutting the number of American troops in Afghanistaninfo-icon, the Military Times reported on Thursday.

“I’m interested in reducing our force presence,” Mark Esper told lawmakers during a congressional hearing on Afghanistan Wednesday.

A troop reduction would help the Pentagon reallocate some of the forces to other parts of the worldinfo-icon to strengthen US preparedness for potential conflict with China or Russia, he said.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, he stressed the US military must remain focused on battling terror even as Washington was trying to reach a peace deal with the Talibaninfo-icon.

“We have an important counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan. That means we’ve got to make sure Afghanistan never becomes again a safe haven for terrorists that can strike the United States.”

Esper added military commanders had informed him the US could reduce its presence in Afghanistan and still carry out a counterterrorism mission.

Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark Milley agreed that leaving a minimal US footprint in Afghanistan to battle terrorists was one of the options being mulled by the Pentagon.

“We have multiple options, that’s one of them,” he said, as members of the committee grilled him and Esper on a number of issues.

Of the 13,000 US troops in Afghanistan, about 5,000 are engaged in counterterrorism missions and the rest training and assisting the Afghan forces.

Lawmakers also suggested a hearing on whether the Pentagon duped the American public about military progress during the conflict in Afghanistan.

“The bottom line is that top military officials and civilian officials had known that the Afghanistan war has been unwinnable and have been misleading the American public for 20 years,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, who believed the committee should hold hearings on the matter.

Adam Smith, the committee chairman, agreed hearings on the issue would be appropriate. “I do think it’s something that we should take a look at.”

PANinfo-icon Monitor/mud


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