President Trump reiterated a surprise declaration he made via Twitter on Wednesday night. In Wednesday’s tweet, the president said all US troops in Afghanistan should be home by Christmas.
Speaking to Fox Business on Thursday, Trump reinforced his desire for the Christmas deadline. “We’re down to 4,000 troops in Afghanistan. I’ll have them home by the end of the year. They’re coming home, you know, as we speak. Nineteen years is enough. They’re acting as policemen, OK? They’re not acting as troops,” he said.
President Trump’s tweet on Wednesday came just hours after National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said there would be about 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan by early 2021. The withdrawal is scheduled to be completed by May 2021 as per the US-Taliban peace deal that was signed in February.
Talks between the Taliban and the US-backed Afghan government are ongoing in Doha. While the intra-Afghan talks were delayed for months before they got started, and violence between the warring parties continues, the US troop drawdowns have actually been ahead of schedule.
For their part, the Taliban welcomed Trump’s new plan and called it a “positive step” for the US-Taliban agreement.
An unnamed Trump administration official told the AP News that Trump’s tweet “laid down a marker” on US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, and “since he is the commander in chief, the rest of the administration will follow his lead.”
AP and other news outlets spoke with unnamed US officials who voiced their disapproval of Trump’s Christmas deadline. Many of the officials said the tweet hurt the Afghan government’s leverage over the Taliban.