Washington: President Donald Trump has said he expects fewer than 5,000 US troops to be in Afghanistan by November and called America’s wars in the Middle East the “biggest mistake” in the country’s history during a television interview this week.
“We’re largely out of Afghanistan,” Trump said in an interview with Axios aired on HBO Monday. “It’s already planned. We’ll be down in a very short period of time to 8,000, then we’re gonna be down to 4,000. We’re negotiating right now, we’ve been there for 19 years — 19 years — we’ll be getting out,” reported foreign media. The US has already withdrawn about a third of its troops, bringing the number to about 8,500, following a peace agreement signed with the Taliban in February that also calls for a full withdrawal by next summer if certain conditions are met, including the Taliban’s breaking of its ties with al-Qaeda.
The current troop numbers are about what they were when Trump took office in 2017, before numbers ramped up again to about 14,000 under a strategy meant to pressure the militants into peace negotiations. There will be “probably anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000” troops in Afghanistan by Election Day in November, Trump said in the interview, recorded last week. He said it would be 4,000 “very soon,” but declined to say when. The president also boasted that he “took out” ISIS in Iraq and Syria, killed the group’s founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in Syria last October, and assassinated Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani in Baghdad this January. I’ve done things that no other president has done,” he said. “They should have never been in the Middle East. The decision to go to the Middle East was the single biggest mistake made in the history of our country. That’s my opinion.”
A UN monitoring team also found recently that the Taliban relationship with al-Qaida, which was to be severed under the terms of the February agreement, remained “close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy and intermarriage.”