Trump said earlier in the day that no one should be surprised by the decision, given his long history of calling for the U.S.to stop spending money on American presences overseas, especially in the Middle East: "Getting out of Syria was no surprise". There are many within the Taliban who oppose negotiations and advocate waiting out Washington's patience and money. United States officials told the New York Times and Wall Street Journal that about half that number would be withdrawn.
Many Afghans greeted the reports of a USA drawdown with dismay. Trump expressed a desire to stop spending money and endangering USA lives in Syria, preferring instead to leave responsibility for fighting ISIS there to Russian Federation and Iran.
Graham would not entertain suggestions that Trump was motivated by Russian Federation or Turkey, who have some interest in seeing the USA military withdraw from the region - "I'm not going there", he said - but instead suggested that Trump was simply expressing a non-interventionist philosophy.
Afghanistan's security forces rely heavily on USA air power against both the Taliban and an upstart Islamic State affiliate, and Afghan military officials noted the announcement by the Trump administration comes as the country's security is at its worst since 2014. At a donor conference in Geneva in late November, Ghani announced his peace plan with a five-year timeframe, conveniently tying peace talks to his next presidential term should he win in April. "Western diplomats, [Afghan presidential] palace officials, and the Taliban themselves were shocked by the announcement", said Graeme Smith, a senior consultant for the International Crisis Group. He told reporters that ISIS inhabited just one percent of the territory they once held thanks to the success of the US -led campaign but still maintained a unsafe level of influence.
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McGurk has led US efforts to counter the influence of ISIS on the battlegrounds of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond since 2015.
Trump at the time said his instinct was to get out of Afghanistan.
Foreign funding, largely from the USA, will be critical to prop up security forces until they can stand on their own for many more years, as "full self-sufficiency by 2024 does not appear realistic". They carry out near-daily attacks, mainly targeting security forces and government officials. Others, particularly within Jamiat-e-Islami or other old mujahideen factions, may accelerate efforts to re-arm their militias in anticipation of a full USA withdrawal.
Michael Kugelman, deputy director Asia program and South Asia senior associate at Washington's Wilson Center describe the timing of the US drawdown plan as "breathtakingly bad", fearing the move could squander the latest effort to seek a negotiated settlement to the prolonged Afghan war. Peace will take years of sustained effort.
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"We're keeping a watch on how Afghan elites, policymakers react to this ..."
This may be a pipe dream, as all parties still seem convinced they can secure the best deal themselves and are likely wary of handing over any part of the process to anyone else.
"Depending on how the Taliban react, the government might ask forces to reduce operations", he said.
The United States has had forces in Afghanistan since launching its first offensive in the war on terror in 2001.
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