US troop reduction in Afghanistan ahead of schedule
The commitment by the US to cut down its military presence from 13,00 to 8,600 by mid-July was a central tenet of the peace agreement between the Taliban and the US signed earlier this year.
The deal also stipulates that US troops be completely gone from the country by May 2021, conditions permitting.
According to two high-ranking sources in Kabul, the US will likely hit the 8,600 figure by early June, while two anonymous US officials said the target will be reached in the next few days.
“Due to Covid-19 concerns, we are moving towards that planned drawdown faster than anticipated,” one of the officials told Reuters.
US President Trump announced on Tuesday that there were “7,000-some-odd soldiers” left in Afghanistan, however officials made clear that true figure was just above 8,600 troops.
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Trump has reiterated his intention to fully withdraw US military from Afghanistan, but has not specified a completion date.
Some have speculated that ending the conflict - the US' longest-fought war - may become a key pledge of Trump's re-election campaign.
The news comes as hopes grew for an extended ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghan government, after peace prevailed on Wednesday beyond a three-day pause in fighting that began on Sunday to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
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