World: In his first trip to Afghanistan, acting defense chief says no orders to withdraw U.S. troops - PressFrom - US
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WorldIn his first trip to Afghanistan, acting defense chief says no orders to withdraw U.S. troops

05:15  12 february  2019
05:15  12 february  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

Exclusive: U.S. may trim over 1,000 troops from Afghanistan in belt-tightening - general

Exclusive: U.S. may trim over 1,000 troops from Afghanistan in belt-tightening - general Even before any peace push-related drawdowns, the U.S. military is expected to trim troop levels in Afghanistan as part of an efficiency drive by the new commander, a U.S. general told Reuters on Friday, estimating the cuts may exceed 1,000 forces. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); U.S. President Donald Trump told Congress this month he intended to reduce U.S. forces from Afghanistan as negotiators make progress in talks with Taliban insurgents, saying: "Great nations do not fight endless wars." U.S.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has ordered the military to start withdrawing roughly 7,000 troops from Afghanistan in the coming months, two defense officials said Thursday, an abrupt shift in the 17-year-old war there and a decision that stunned Afghan officials

Defense Department officials said that Mr. Trump had ordered that the withdrawal be completed in 30 days. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said President Trump’ s decision to withdraw U . S . troops from Syria “rattled the world.”

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KABUL —Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan met with Afghan leaders in Kabul on Monday as the Trump administration made an intensified diplomatic push to end the United States’ longest war.

Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who has served in a senior Defense Department role since 2017, made his first visit to Afghanistan six weeks after he became Pentagon chief following the resignation of retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis.

Top Pentagon official in Afghanistan amid push for peace

Top Pentagon official in Afghanistan amid push for peace The Pentagon's top official made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Monday to meet with U.S. commanders and Afghan leaders amid a push for peace with the Taliban. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); Pat Shanahan, the recently installed acting secretary of defense, said he has no orders to reduce the U.S. troop presence, although officials say that is at the top of the Taliban's list of demands in exploratory peace negotiations.

In his speech to troops , Trump criticized their commanders, saying they had failed to meet the deadlines he set for withdrawal from Syria and He directed the Defense Department to withdraw nearly half of the more than 14,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan , U . S . officials said last week

The US military has been ordered to begin planning to withdraw about half the troops in Afghanistan , a US defense official with direct knowledge Two administration officials told CNN that Trump wants the plans drawn up in hopes he could announce the drawdown in his State of the Union

Shanahan is under consideration to be nominated as Trump’s second defense secretary at a moment when the president is taking steps to end the counterterrorism wars that have dominated Pentagon activities since the 9/11 attacks.

While military leaders are proceeding with a plan to pull American troops out of Syria, ending a ground mission against the Islamic State, officials say a decision has not been reached to withdraw from Afghanistan, where U.S. and NATO forces support local forces battling the Taliban and other militants.

Confusion has surrounded what appeared to be a decision in December to withdraw as many as half the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, an indication of the contradictory messages that have often characterized Trump’s foreign policy and internal debates about a war that even military leaders characterize as a stalemate.

Taliban Says It Wants U.S. Pullout in Months

Taliban Says It Wants U.S. Pullout in Months The Taliban is seeking the pullout of all foreign troops from Afghanistan within months, a senior official said, as the fundamentalist Islamic movement reached out to opponents of U.S.-backed President Ashraf Ghani at talks in Moscow. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); “This is the first step,’’ Sher Mohammed Abbas Stanikzai told reporters in the Russian capital after meeting with other Afghan factions. “It will continue in the future with the hope that it can bring peace one day to Afghanistan.

2009 to discuss his troops surge plan, Obama stated that the Afghanistan War is an American war The agreement text grants the United States full legal jurisdiction over U . S . troops and Defense During a surprise trip to Afghanistan in May 2014 Obama stated that the United States wanted to

It' s his first such trip since taking office. Trump And First Lady Make Secret Trip To Iraq To Visit U . S . Troops . He recently ordered the drawdown of several thousand troops in Afghanistan and ordered all troops withdrawn from Syria, a move that sparked an immediate and forceful backlash

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Speaking to reporters ahead of his arrival, Shanahan said he had not received orders to withdraw.

“I think the presence we want in Afghanistan is what assures our homeland defense and supports regional stability, and that any type of sizing is done in a coordinated and disciplined manner,” he said.

Shanahan’s inaugural overseas trip as acting defense secretary comes as he seeks to prove his foreign policy credentials and establish a more public profile after 1½ years as deputy defense secretary under Mattis.

Talk of any substantial troop reduction appears to be on hold for now as the White House tries to give diplomats a chance to foster peace talks. In recent weeks, Zalmay Khalilzad, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, announced that his team of negotiators had reached agreement in principle on core issues between the United States and the Taliban, a step diplomats hope will set the stage for broader peace discussions that include the Afghan government.

Acting Pentagon chief visits Baghdad to support Iraq, discuss Syria withdrawal

Acting Pentagon chief visits Baghdad to support Iraq, discuss Syria withdrawal Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday for an unannounced visit during which he said he would stress the importance of Iraqi sovereignty and broach the issue of the future of U.S. troops there. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); President Donald Trump said this month that a U.S. presence was needed to observe Iran, which would overstep the U.S.-led coalition's stated mission in Iraq and Syria of defeating Islamic State.

Acting U . S . Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan landed in Afghanistan today for a surprise visit, following recent peace talks between the U . S . and the Shanahan said he does not have orders to withdraw U . S . troops from the country, a plan first announced by President Trump in December, as

Acting Defense Secretary arrives at Resolute Support for an announced visit to meet the head of US forces in Afghanistan and later Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. In December, the Trump administration ordered the military to start devising plans to withdraw roughly 7,000 personnel from

In Kabul, Shanahan held talks at the presidential compound with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, national security adviser Hamdullah Mohib and other officials. Earlier in the day, he visited an Afghan commando training site and received an update on the war from Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In his first trip to Afghanistan, acting defense chief says no orders to withdraw U.S. troops© Robert Burns/AP Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan greets an Afghan commando at Camp Commando, Afghanistan, on Feb. 11, 2019.

Miller, who previously commanded the elite Joint Special Operations Command, has overseen an increase in the pace of strikes and raids against militant targets, which officials hope will give diplomats leverage in their effort to establish negotiations. So far the Taliban has refused to hold direct negotiations with the Afghan government, which it considers illegitimate.

At the same time, U.S. and NATO forces continue their effort to ensure that Afghanistan’s military, which has taken heavy casualties and remains reliant on its small cadre of elite commandos for offensive operations, can fend off Taliban attacks.

Senate approves Middle East policy bill urging the President to keep US troops in Afghanistan, Syria

Senate approves Middle East policy bill urging the President to keep US troops in Afghanistan, Syria The Senate approved a Middle East policy bill Tuesday that includes a provision urging President Donald Trump not to precipitously withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Syria until terrorist groups there are destroyed. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); It passed on a broad bipartisan vote, 77 to 23. The measure also imposes new sanctions on Syria and boosts the US' military alliances with Israel and Jordan, both neighbors of war-torn Syria.

Mattis tendered his resignation Thursday over Trump’ s decision to withdraw troops from Syria and draw down numbers in Afghanistan in addition to But Trump has directed the Defense Department to withdraw nearly half of the more than 14,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan , U . S . officials said

Shanahan, in his first trip in his new role, said he' s encouraged that President Trump' s administration is exploring all possibilities for ending the 17-year Acting U . S . Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan arrives in Kabul, Afghanistan for unannounced visit on February 11, 2019 IDREES ALI / REUTERS.

A December Pentagon assessment described the battlefield situation as a continued impasse but said “the combination of military escalation and diplomatic initiative have made a favorable political settlement more likely than at any time in recent memory.”

Some senior Afghan officials are worried about possible U.S. concessions to the Taliban and the Kabul government’s exclusion from the recent discussions, which have taken place in the gulf state of Qatar. But the Afghan leader, welcoming Shanahan to his 19th-century palace in central Kabul, made no mention of that to Shanahan in introductory remarks, which were witnessed by reporters.

According to a statement issued later by Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a military spokesman, the talks highlighted the need for a political settlement “that ensures Afghanistan is never again used as a safe haven from which terrorists can plan and launch terrorist attacks against the United States, our interests, and our allies.”

For years, Pentagon leaders viewed the idea of striking a deal with the Taliban with skepticism, adding to an array of obstacles that scuttled past attempts. More recently, as the massive military effort has failed to yield a lasting defeat of the militants, they have embraced that goal, even as they hope to retain a small foothold to ensure that hardcore militant groups such as al-Qaeda and the regional Islamic State branch don’t regain strength.

The Afghan Government Is Missing From Afghanistan's Peace Process

The Afghan Government Is Missing From Afghanistan's Peace Process Two sets of negotiations with the Taliban are under way in Afghanistan. Neither includes the country’s democratically elected, internationally recognized administration.

Acting U . S . defense secretary Patrick Shanahan arrived in Afghanistan on Monday and said it was important the Afghan government is involved in REUTERS/Idrees Ali. Shanahan, who will meet U . S . troops and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on his first trip in his new role, said he had so far not

Acting U . S . defense secretary Patrick Shanahan meets with Afghan commandos at Camp Morehead in Kabul. By Idrees Ali. Shanahan, who will meet U . S . troops and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on his first trip in his new role, said he had so far not received any direction to reduce the nearly 14

Speaking at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington on Friday, Khalilzad said Trump had been clear about his desire to end what he characterized as “endless wars.”

“But I think the president also would like Afghanistan to not become a threat to the United States again, for it not to be a platform for terror, and he’s determined to protect the U.S. national security interests, regardless of whether there is an agreement or the Talibs do not agree or if they decide to go an alternative route,” he said.

During his visit, Shanahan also visited a site housing an elite U.S. counterterrorism mission against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, an effort that many officials hope could continue even after the departure of most American troops under a peace deal.

But Jason H. Campbell, an Afghanistan scholar at the Rand Corp., said securing that kind of a longer-term presence might not be possible if it is not accompanied by a larger effort to continue to fund and support Afghan forces.

“In short, the U.S. may find it difficult to convince Afghans to permit a heavily counterterrorism or even counterterrorism-only mission without making other concessions and at least agreeing to sustain funding for the Afghan security forces,” he said.

Shanahan described Khalilzad as the “quarterback” of the American effort in Afghanistan but said the Pentagon would also play an important role in the peace effort. Military officials have taken part in some of the meetings with the Taliban.

The wild card is Trump, who has long voiced a desire to leave Afghanistan but in 2017 approved a recommitment to the military effort at the urging of his advisers. The president has repeatedly surprised even his senior advisers by unexpectedly announcing major decisions on Twitter. That uncertainly creates complications for negotiators and for military officials as they seek to reassure Afghans they will not leave overnight.

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Pamela Constable in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

In Mattis’s Shadow, Acting Pentagon Chief Tries to Reassure NATO Allies.
On his first international trip as Pentagon head, Patrick M. Shanahan entered NATO headquarters on Wednesday with a key question hanging over him: Would he be the stalwart ally and buffer against President Trump’s whims that the former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, had been? 

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