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US to keep more than 8,000 soldiers in Afghanistan after Taliban deal: Trump

US troops must remain for intelligence purposes, Trump said [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 August, 2019

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A deal with the Taliban will not mean a full withdrawal of the US military presence in Afghanistan, US President Donald Trump has said.
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that more than 8,000 US troops would remain in Afghanistan if a deal is reached with the Taliban.
Troop levels would drop to 8,600 but a permanent presence would remain, he said in an interview with Fox News radio.

"We're always going to have a presence," Trump said.

The US president also levelled a heavy warning, saying that if another attack on the US were to originate from Afghanistan "we would come back with a force like... never before."

US soldiers were first sent to the Central Asian nation after the 11 September, 2001 attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda, which was sheltered by the former Taliban regime.

Washington has since sought to tned its military involvement and has been in talks with the Taliban since 2018.

Trump has said that the US military presence will only be reduced when the Taliban gives assurances that its territory will not be used by Al-Qaeda or any other international militant groups.

Keeping a permanant military presence in Afghanistan was necessary to provide "high intelligence", Trump said on Thursday.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said on Wednesday that the group was close to such an agreement with the US.

"We hope to have good news soon for our Muslim, independence-seeking nation," he said.

The US, which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban from power in 2001 after the 11 September attacks, wants to withdraw thousands of troops but only in return for the group renouncing Al-Qaeda and curbing attacks.

Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by 1 September - ahead of Afghan polls due the same month, and US presidential polls next year.

Trump, however, told reporters on Monday that the talks had "no timeline", and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said on Wednesday it was too early to discuss troop withdrawal.

The Doha talks are being held against a backdrop of persistent violence in Afghanistan.

The Taliban claimed on Saturday to have killed seven members of the US military in an attack on a convoy near Bagram airfield north of Kabul. American officials dismissed the claims as "lies".

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