US troop strength in Afghanistan down to almost 8,600 ahead of schedule

WION Web Team
New York, New York, United States of America Published: May 27, 2020, 09:06 PM(IST)

File photo Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

US forces are in Afghanistan to conduct counter-insurgency operations. A few thousand US soldiers work with troops from 37 NATO partner countries to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.

US troop strength in Afghanistan is down to nearly 8,600, well ahead of a schedule agreed with Taliban militants in late February, in part because of concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

A key provision of the February 29 agreement between the Taliban and the United States, to which the Afghan government was not a party, involved a US commitment to reduce its military footprint in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 by mid-July and, conditions permitting, to zero by May 2021.

Two senior sources in Kabul said the 8,600 target was likely to be achieved by early June.
Two US officials said that the United States was close to 8,600 troops and could reach that number in coming days.

The other US official said the United States had focussed on quickly removing non-essential personnel and those considered to be at high risk from the coronavirus.

US forces are in Afghanistan to conduct counter-insurgency operations. A few thousand US soldiers work with troops from 37 NATO partner countries to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.

NATO's mission in the country totalled 16,551 troops in February, according official data available on its website.

Meanwhile, the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 before being ousted by US-led troops in 2001, have sought to topple the Western-backed government in Kabul and reimpose Islamic rule. They dismiss the Kabul government as a puppet of the United States.

The Taliban have recently increased attacks in a number of provinces, despite the Afghan government releasing prisoners as per the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha.

In a statement, the Pentagon said it expected to be at 8,600 troops within 135 days of signing the agreement, but declined to say how many troops were currently in Afghanistan.

(with inputs from Reuters)

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