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US cuts troop presence in Afghanistan to 8,600

Kabul/Washington: As part of its agreement with the Taliban in February, the US has cut its troop presence in Afghanistan to 8,600, a top American General said.

“What I would tell you now is we have met our part of the agreement,” General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, told a panel discussion hosted by the Aspen Institute.

“We agreed to go to the mid-8,000 range within 135 days. We are at that number now,” McKenzie said.

He, however, did not provide any indication of when, or at what pace, US forces would be further reduced under the agreement.

Under the February deal reached with the Taliban, the United States agreed to reduce its forces in Afghanistan from 12,000 troops to 8,600 by mid-July.

The agreement calls for all US and foreign troops to quit Afghanistan by mid-2021, almost 20 years after the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaeda on New York and Washington.

He also said that full withdrawal was an “aspirational” commitment and that “conditions would have to be met in case of further attacks.

“Conditions would have to be met that satisfy us that attacks against our homeland are not going to be generated from Afghanistan,” he said. “That’s not the Taliban. That is, of course, al-Qaida and ISIS (ISIL),” referring to the violent group that used haven in Afghanistan during the Taliban’s previous rule to plan the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US, as well as the ISIL group’s Afghanistan affiliate.

The Taliban had already committed in the agreement to cut their ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

“What we need to see is what they’re going to do against Al Qaeda. And we need to see that in deeds and not words,” McKenzie said.

President Donald Trump has been eager for a full US withdrawal from Afghanistan, stating that American forces are merely policing a civil conflict and should be brought home.

“We are ending the era of endless wars … we are not the policemen of the world,” Trump told the graduates of the US Military Academy.

The death toll of US service members has surpassed 2,400 since the country invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

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