The Pentagon late last year ordered the withdrawal of 7,000 United States troops—half of the 14,000 of the current force—from Afghanistan, as reported by David Martin of CBS News. Currently, the Taliban operates in around 70 percent of Afghanistan, greater than any time since the U.S. invaded in 2001.
The move has raised concerns, particularly those of Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, who blocked the Trump administration’s order of a swift withdrawal in a 68-23 Republican-led Senate vote on an amendment boycotting the pullout. “ISIS and al-Qaida have yet to be defeated,” McConnell said. “And American national security interests require continued commitment to our missions there.”
James H. Lebovic, an analyst at The Washington Post, suggests “the U.S. underestimated the total task it takes to build the Afghan army against the Taliban.” As Lebovic points out, the U.S. retracting from Afghanistan may leave the Afghan government with political uncertainty, and that, “the fate of the government is no longer a principal U.S. concern.”
Peace talks between the Taliban and the U.S. are being negotiated by U.S. Special Peace Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who told The New York Times that plans have been drafted, but the details have yet to be inked out.
The Taliban, who do not recognize the legitimacy of the Afghan government, excluded Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s administration from the talks, calling it a “puppet of the U.S.”
The nearly 14,000 U.S. troops are a fraction of the NATO-led coalition made up of 38 other countries in an operation known as Resolute Support, for the purpose of counter-terrorism directed at the Islamic State and Taliban ally, al-Qaida.
President Ghani broke his silence at the World Economic Summit, reporting 45,000 Afghan security personnel have been killed since his inauguration in 2014. In response to the pullout of U.S. forces, Ghani told The Independent, “the current presence of foreign forces is based on need…and according to an exact and arranged plan we are trying to bring down that number to zero.”