The United States is counting on further military withdrawal from Afghanistan to potentially fewer than 5,000 troops as inter-Afghan peace talks progress, the Pentagon said Monday.
“Over the next four months, the United States will continue to drawdown its force levels in Afghanistan based on conditions in-country,” the Department of Defense said in a statement.
“Our current trajectory expects to see the number of US service members in Afghanistan be below 5,000 by the end of November.”
“As always, such drawdowns remain conditions-based and are implemented after consultation with Congress and in direct coordination with our NATO Allies and partners,” the Pentagon added.
“The US military presence in Afghanistan remains focused on capabilities — not numbers.”
The Pentagon’s statement was further clarification for statements by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who appeared Saturday to announce an impending troop withdrawal.
“We are going down to a number less than 5,000 before the end of November,” Esper said, adding that the Pentagon would first have to ensure that the US “is not threatened by terrorists coming out of Afghanistan.”
US President Donald Trump during an interview with Axios last week also mentioned reaching 4,000 to 5,000 troops by the November presidential election.
The US currently deploys 8,600 soldiers in Afghanistan, in accordance with a bilateral agreement signed February 29 in Doha between Washington and the Taliban.
Under the agreement, all foreign troops must leave Afghanistan by the spring of 2021, in exchange for security commitments from the militants.