- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Trump White House has requested plans for the withdrawal of 7,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan, slashing the total number of American forces in the country by half, a day after the administration announced the complete pullout of all American forces from Syria.

Mr. Trump reportedly made the decision to request the Afghanistan reduction at the same time White House officials opted to pull out all 2,000 U.S. service members assisting local forces battling the Islamic State in Syria. The Wall Street Journal first reported details of the Trump administration’s request Thursday night.

Withdrawal plans from the Pentagon are expected to reach the White House by the new year, while no timeline has been set for when the pullout would begin, NBC News reported.

The mission of the nearly 14,000 U.S. service members in Afghanistan are split between counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria — Khorasan group or ISIS-K, and training local forces alongside their NATO counterparts.

News of the U.S. withdrawal comes as Afghan-led offensives backed by American airpower and a cadre of U.S. and NATO military advisers have ramped up, in an effort to roll back Taliban gains and force the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Seeking peaceful reconciliation with the Taliban, for the first time, as a main goal in the American war plan in Afghanistan — known as the South Asia strategy — has been seen as a bold and distinct break from previous administrations’ efforts to end the war.

On Monday, U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad met with top Taliban officials to discuss potential peace talks. Mr. Khalilzad’s meeting in Abu Dhabi was the third time he has sat down with the terror group’s leaders since being appointed as the White House’s special envoy.

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