In its own deal struck earlier this year with the Taliban, the Trump administration said it would remove all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by next spring if the Taliban complied with certain conditions, including a reduction in violence and the Taliban severing all relations with al-Qaeda militants.
Afghan government officials have said they see no evidence of such a break, and the level of violence has sharply increased in Afghanistan in recent months.
U.S. military officials last month announced that U.S. troop deployments would be reduced from about 8,600 to about 4,000 this fall but have said a full withdrawal would come only if conditions permit. U.S. forces in Afghanistan peaked around 100,000 under the Obama administration. Although they had fallen dramatically by the time Trump took office, he added several thousand early in his term on the recommendation of the military.
Earlier in the day, White House national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien said the force would be reduced to around 2,500 early next year. It was not immediately clear whether this plan was the same one Trump referenced.
“Ultimately, the Afghans themselves are going to have to work out an accord, a peace agreement. . . . We think Americans need to come home,” Reuters reported that O’Brien said in a speech at the University of Nevada.
A spokesperson for the Defense Department referred questions about Trump’s remark to the White House.
A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under White House rules, said the president’s tweet “really laid down a marker tonight and he’s the commander in chief and we all follow his lead.”
The Doha negotiations, which began several weeks ago after months of delay, have proceeded slowly. It was not clear what prompted the president to adopt a new withdrawal timetable.
Trump, who came to office four years ago vowing to bring home U.S. forces serving in “endless wars,” faces a reelection vote in less than four weeks. Long critical of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, he said in May that the United States “never really fought to win” the conflict, in which more than 2,000 American troops have died.