- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Four members of the U.S.-led NATO military mission in Afghanistan have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said Tuesday, marking the first confirmed cases among service members inside the country.

The positive tests come as the U.S. seeks to draw down its military presence in Afghanistan from the current level of about 12,000 to 8,600. The partial withdrawal is a key piece of the Trump administration’s landmark peace agreement with the Taliban.

Despite the global coronavirus pandemic, the Pentagon has insisted that the withdrawal will move forward — though those assurances came before Tuesday’s news of positive cases in Afghanistan.

“The service members were newly arrived in country and were in a precautionary screening facility when they became symptomatic, were moved to isolation, and were tested,” the NATO Resolute Support mission said in a statement. “We have taken the necessary precautions to identify and quarantine any personnel these four service members may have been in contact with.”

The statement did not say whether the service members are American.

About 1,500 service members and civilians in Afghanistan are currently living in “screening facilities” as a precautionary measure, NATO said. At least 38 members have exhibited flu-like symptoms and are in isolation.

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