- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Pentagon officials are confident they can carry out their mission in Afghanistan even with an expected drawdown that will leave fewer than 5,000 U.S. troops in the country by the end of November.

In August, President Donald Trump ordered the reduction in military personnel there after concluding the conditions in Afghanistan warranted the move. At that force level, the U.S. still maintains an ability to conduct the “core aspect” of its existing missions in the country, said David F. Helvey, currently performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Affairs.

“We’ve long maintained that our force presence in Afghanistan is conditions-based,” Mr. Helvey said.

The U.S. will continue to conduct a counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan in addition to participating in the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support, which focuses on the training and advising the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

In February, the U.S. and the Taliban signed an agreement that will include the eventual complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Part of the agreement requires the Taliban to no longer allow its members or other groups to use Afghanistan as a base to threaten the security of the United States or its allies.

“We also expect the Taliban to meaningfully participate in Afghan peace negotiations and to do their part in preventing outside actors from negatively impacting the peace process,” Mr. Helvey said.

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