SecDef: US Drawdown in Afghanistan ‘Not Necessarily’ Tied to Taliban Deal

Troop cuts may happen with or without deal

In comments on Monday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper tried to clarify the US position on withdrawal of forces, as addressed by President Trump. He suggested the drawdown might or might not be related to any deal with the Taliban.

President Trump had mentioned the drawdown, but his comments focused on resuming the peace talks with the Taliban. Though it would make sense that these would be related, since the peace deal is built around a full withdrawal of US forces, the intention seems to be to do a drawdown whether or not the talks go anywhere.

Since President Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the peace deal with the Taliban before, it seems the administration doesn’t want to link the drawdown, seen as politically important for the 2020 vote, and the talks, because it would make Trump less able to walk away from the talks again in the future.

In disconnecting troop levels from the peace process, the US is risking reducing its relevancy, however, making a solid year of peace talks with the Taliban little more than perfunctory, something just giving the US the ability to say the talks are taking place but not in any way impacting the war.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of