World: Exclusive: U.S. troop drawdowns in Afghanistan 'not necessarily' tied to Taliban deal - Esper - - PressFrom - US
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World Exclusive: U.S. troop drawdowns in Afghanistan 'not necessarily' tied to Taliban deal - Esper

01:40  03 december  2019
01:40  03 december  2019 Source:   reuters.com

Chances of successful Afghanistan peace talks higher than before: U.S. general

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By Phil Stewart. LONDON (Reuters) - U . S . Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that any future troop drawdowns in Afghanistan were " not necessarily " linked to a deal with Taliban insurgents

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Reuters Monday that cutbacks in US troop numbers in Afghanistan are " not necessarily " contingent on a peace deal with the Taliban . While Trump didn't explicitly tie the withdrawal to a peace deal with the Taliban militant group, he did indicate that such

By Phil Stewart

a man wearing a suit and tie: FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper delivers remarks before ringing the closing NASDAQ bell in New York© Reuters/DoD/Lisa Ferdinando FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper delivers remarks before ringing the closing NASDAQ bell in New York

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that any future troop drawdowns in Afghanistan were "not necessarily" linked to a deal with Taliban insurgents, suggesting some lowering of force levels may happen irrespective of the ongoing peace push.

The remarks by Esper in an interview with Reuters came on the heels of a Thanksgiving trip last week to Afghanistan by President Donald Trump, who spoke of potential troop reductions and said he believed the Taliban insurgency would agree to a ceasefire in the 18-year-old war.

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  Trump returns to Florida after whirlwind Afghanistan trip President Trump arrived in Florida early Friday morning following his surprise whirlwind trip to Afghanistan to see U.S. troops on Thanksgiving in his first visit to the country as president. © Getty Trump returns to Florida after whirlwind Afghanistan trip Trump's plane touched down at Palm Beach International Airport shortly before 7 a.m., according to reporters traveling with the president. Trump was spotted wearing a red campaign hat when departing the plane, before taking a short drive to his Mar-a-Lago resort.

U . S . Troops in Afghanistan . Afghan officials said they had not been consulted or even warned about the drawdown . And the timing was likely to complicate the American push for peace talks with the Taliban , which requires maintaining pressure, or at least holding the line, on the battlefield.

The troop cuts would require the Taliban to make several concessions, U . S . officials said. The agreement, which would require the Taliban to begin negotiating a larger peace deal directly with “Our troops will remain in Afghanistan at appropriate levels so long as their presence is required to

If honored by all sides, a ceasefire could lead to a significant reduction in violence. But U.S. military commanders would still focus on the threats associated with two other militant groups in Afghanistan: Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Speaking as he flew to London for a NATO summit, Esper said the Trump administration had been discussing potential reductions in troop levels for some time, both internally and with NATO allies.

"I feel confident that we could reduce our numbers in Afghanistan and still ensure that place doesn't become a safe haven for terrorists who could attack the United States," Esper said, without offering a figure.

"And our allies agree we can make reductions as well."

Asked whether such reductions would necessarily be contingent on some sort of agreement with the Taliban insurgency, Esper said: "Not necessarily."

After Trump's Kabul visit, Taliban says ready to resume peace talks

  After Trump's Kabul visit, Taliban says ready to resume peace talks After Trump's Kabul visit, Taliban says ready to resume peace talksTrump's Thanksgiving Day visit was his first to Afghanistan since becoming president and came a week after a prisoner swap between Washington and Kabul that has raised hopes for a long elusive peace deal to end the 18-year-long war.

President Donald Trump paid a surprise Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan , where he announced the U . S . and the Taliban have been engaged in ongoing He served turkey and thanked the troops , delivered a speech and sat down with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani before leaving just after midnight.

Afghanistan ’ s security depends largely on the outcome of peace talks between its US -backed government and the Taliban , which controls more territory Speaking to troops at Bagram Airfield on Thursday, Trump said that the militants “want to make a deal ” with the US and Afghan governments.

He did not elaborate.

There are currently about 13,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan as well as thousands of other NATO troops. U.S. officials have said U.S. forces could drop to 8,600 and still carry out an effective, core counter-terrorism mission as well as some limited advising for Afghan forces.

A draft accord agreed in September before peace talks collapsed would have withdrawn thousands of American troops in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States or its allies.

Still, many U.S. officials privately doubt the Taliban could be relied upon to prevent al Qaeda from again plotting attacks against the United States from Afghan soil.

Esper did not hint at any developments in the coming days or suggest that new troop drawdowns in Afghanistan might figure into NATO discussions this week.

"I don't think there's any 'new' news right now, if you will. We've been discussing this for quite some time," Esper said, when asked if he would raise the issue in London.

About 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in the Afghan conflict and many thousands more wounded.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Cynthia Osterman)

Pentagon: Reports of 14K troop increase in Mideast 'flat out wrong' .
The Pentagon on Friday vehemently pushed back on reports that the United States may send 14,000 more troops to the Middle East to confront a growing Iranian threat but did not deny that a force increase is forthcoming. © Getty Images Pentagon: Reports of 14K troop increase in Mideast 'flat out wrong' "As the Department has stated repeatedly, we were never discussing or considering sending 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.

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