Acting Pentagon chief tells US troops "time to come home"

Wednesday, 18 Nov, 2020

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Tuesday that the military organization could pay a heavy price for leaving Afghanistan too early, after a US official said President Donald Trump is expected to withdraw a significant number of American troops from the conflict-ravaged country in coming weeks.

The majority leader went on to praise the Trump administration for making "tremendous headway in creating the conditions that will secure the enduring defeat of the terrorists", but argued that there is still work to be done before the USA withdraws its troops too aggressively. Trump has refused to concede his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, who takes office January 20, just five days after the troop withdrawals are to finish.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said Stoltenberg held talks with Christopher Miller on Friday about the 30-nation US-led military alliances agenda, including the situation in Afghanistan, and that Nato's position hasn't changed on its security role in the conflict-ravaged country. Military commanders have expressed less concern about the reduction in Iraq, where the Iraqi forces are better able to maintain their nation's security.

But the withdrawal stops short of his pledge on October 7, when Trump said on Twitter "We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!"

But Miller also made it clear that "all wars must end".

In Afghanistan, in particular, military and defense leaders have consistently said the Taliban has not yet met requirements to reduce violent attacks against Afghan government forces.

In addition, talks with the Taliban in Qatar had hampered the security forces' achievements, else the Afghan defense forces would acquire further achievements on the battlefield.

The decision received a cool reception from some Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, and a blunt critique from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. USA airstrikes against Taliban forces will also continue since forces fly out of Kuwait and other countries in the region.

"Will there be decisions by this White House that deviate from those agreements?"

Opponents to the measure have stated that going below 4,500 troops in Afghanistan is not a wise idea at this point, as the Taliban has supposedly not been keeping up its end of the bargain it reached with the U.S. in February to keep the peace.

Stoltenberg earlier Tuesday warned that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation could pay a heavy price for leaving Afghanistan too early.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation took charge of the worldwide security effort in Afghanistan in 2003, two years after a US-led coalition ousted the Taliban for harbouring former Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The 30-nation alliance relies heavily on the United States armed forces for transport, logistics and other support.

'We now face a hard decision. In his statement Tuesday, Stoltenberg emphasized the high cost that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have paid.

He said last month he wanted United States troops home "by Christmas" and his National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien refined that to mean the Afghan presence would fall to 2,500 as early as January.

"I want to reiterate that this policy is not new".

Any such action would have to come in the 67 days before Mr Biden takes office on Jan 20. He has accused his predecessor, Barack Obama, of setting a timetable for troop withdrawals in Iraq and Afghanistan that worked against the achievement of military goals. Violence in Afghanistan, however, has escalated in the past few months.

The accelerated withdrawal, however, goes against the longstanding advice of Trump's military leadership, including Marine Gen.

The Taliban harbored al Qaeda's leaders and the USA special envoy for Afghanistan said the Taliban had not fulfilled their February accord commitment to break ties with al Qaeda.

Former senior military officials said a proposed troop drawdown from Afghanistan under the current conditions was worrisome, especially during a presidential transition period. But foreign policy elites generally oppose rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan, fearing for the future of the country the departing troops would leave behind. As an example, she has backed a limited role in Afghanistan that focuses more on countering the terror threat and less on rebuilding the country.

"Trump can really cement his legacy as the president who ended America's longest war if he does this, and I think the president should want to do that", he said.