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US faces troop reduction deadline

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US faces troop reduction deadline

US Afghan
Photo: Scott Nelson/Getty Images

The outgoing Trump administration is due to lower US troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 by today.

The US-Afghan War, America’s longest war, now has Washington eager to the end the 19-year long conflict without radically destabilising Afghanistan. Meanwhile, a special US envoy is back in Doha for a second round of stalled intra-Afghan negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban.

Currently at issue, the February 2019 peace agreement between the US and Taliban calls for complete US troop withdrawal by May in return for the insurgents fulfilling security guarantees and participating in talks. Halting the drawdown could destabilise the intra-Afghan negotiations by causing the Taliban to press the attack or leave the negotiating table. Nevertheless, the Taliban has not met its security commitments with continued violence and refusal to negotiate ceasefire; negotiations have similarly remained at a standstill.

Expect troop withdrawals to continue unimpeded in the short-term per US commitments. Medium-term, the incoming Biden administration is likely to reassess a complete withdrawal of US presence in Afghanistan and propose any reduction of forces be linked to both the Taliban and the Afghan government taking credible steps toward a significant and measurable reduction in violence if not outright ceasefire.

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