Trump: Probably Below 5,000 Troops in Afghanistan by US Election

“We’ll be down in a very short period of time to 8,000, then we’re going to be down to 4,000. We’re negotiating right now,” Trump said.

The US will reduce its military presence in Afghanistan to about 4,000 troops “very soon,” said President Donald Trump, in an interview with Axios on HBO. 

“We are largely out of Afghanistan,” Trump said in an interview with the news website Axios which was filmed on Tuesday, July 28, and aired Monday, Aug. 3, on HBO.

“We’ll be down in a very short period of time to 8,000, then we’re going to be down to 4,000, we’re negotiating right now,” Trump said.

However, he did not specify any exact times.

Trump was asked about how many US troops will remain in Afghanistan on election day in November. He said that it would be “probably anywhere from four to five thousand.”

The US-Taliban agreement signed on February 29 calls for the US to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and it also called for the Afghan government to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in return for the Taliban’s release of up to 1,000 government detainees.

The Taliban has released around 1,000 detainees.

The Afghan government, under US pressure, has freed around 4,600 Taliban prisoners in accordance with a list provided by the Taliban, but has balked at releasing the remaining 400 prisoners on the list, saying these detainees have committed serious crimes.

The Afghan government is convening a consultative Loya Jirga, the grand assembly of Afghan elders and representatives, to find a consensus on the decision to release these 400 Taliban prisoners who are accused of crimes including murder, drug trafficking and abduction, a senior government official said on Monday.

At least 3,200 people will attend the Loya Jirga, according to presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi, who held a press conference in Kabul on Monday.

A Taliban spokesman in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen, recently said that convening the Loya Jirga to decide the release of the 400 prisoners meant the continuation of the war.

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Khalilzad in Norway Briefs Officials About Intra-Afghan Talks

Norway’s foreign minister and Khalilzad also talked “all key issues affecting the Afghan peace process.

The US peace envoy Khalilzad visited Oslo, Norway on July  25-27 and met with Foreign Minister Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide and discussed the Afghan peace processes, said the US Embassy in Norway in a statement

During the meeting, Khalilzad discussed “the current impediments to the start of intra-Afghan negotiations and how all sides are working to resolve them,” the statement said.

Norway’s foreign minister and Khalilzad also talked about “all key issues affecting the Afghan peace process especially the critical importance of having the full inclusion of women in intra-Afghan negotiations and to achieve a sustainable peace,” it added.

Khalilzad latest trip to push for intra-Afghan talks

Khalilzad is traveling to press for intra-Afghan talks, the US State Department said on Saturday, and he plans to visit five nations.

Khalilzad departed on July 24 for Kabul, Afghanistan; Sofia, Bulgaria; Oslo, Norway; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Doha, Qatar, the US State Department said.

In Doha and Kabul, Khalilzad will press for resolution of the remaining issues ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations, specifically final prisoner exchanges and reduced violence, according to the statement.

In Islamabad, he will seek Pakistani support in the effort to advance intra-Afghan negotiations.
In Sofia–as in Oslo–Ambassador Khalilzad will update NATO Allies on the Afghan peace process, it said.

Also, Khalilzad, while speaking recently at a virtual event organized by the US Institute of Peace, said that the intra-Afghan talks have “never been so close.”

He was joined by the Afghan ambassador to the US, Roya Rahmani, Uzbekistan’s ambassador to the US, Javlon Vakhabov, and Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the US, Erzhan Kazykhanov.

Khalilzad said: “This is an important moment for Afghanistan and for the region–perhaps a defining moment.”

Trump: Probably Below 5,000 Troops in Afghanistan by US Election