Trump Doesn’t Hold Back In Response To Graham’s Criticism Over Syria Withdrawal

Trump Doesn’t Hold Back In Response To Graham’s Criticism Over Syria Withdrawal

It was the first official Afghan reaction to reports in the USA media that President Donald Trump is considering a "significant" withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, with some quoting unnamed officials as saying the decision has already been made.

The United States has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, some of them serving in the NATO-led Resolute Support training and advisory mission, while others taking part in separate counterterrorism operations against militant groups like Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani has said the withdrawal of half of the 14,000 United States troops serving in Afghanistan will have little impact on the fighting capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces.

At least 20 Afghan civilians, including 12 children, were killed in an airstrike that was meant to target a commander in the eastern province of Kunar late on Friday, local officials said.

"Would you be thinking of a ceasefire if your main opponent has just withdrawn half their troops?"

On the other hand, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid stated the meetings shall continue after consultations by both sides with their respective leaderships.

"Considering the decision as a serious US endgame step, political elites in Kabul will probably aim to close ranks and raise questions about the timing and commitments made to maintain stability", says Omar Samad, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Atlantic Council and former Afghan diplomat.

The reports came a day after the US President announced the country's military withdrawal from Syria - a move that met with criticism from US allies and coalition partners. "We are expecting more good news".

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It is not clear if USA peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad or the Afghan government had been warned of Trump's plans in advance. But a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani downplayed the effect of any pullout.

"Diplomats in Kabul have been talking about the "tweet of Damocles" hanging over peace talks, fearing that (U.S. President Donald) Trump would bring home the troops abruptly", said Graeme Smith, a consultant for the International Crisis Group. The US is by far the biggest and most influential member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

"That decision has been made".

"The sudden decision has come as a shock", an Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, told RFE/RL.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted that any withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan would be a "high risk strategy" which could reverse U.S. progress in the region and pave the way towards a "second 9/11".

Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, nominated to lead the U.S. military's Central Command, warned this month that unless recruiting and training improve, local forces will not overcome the casualty rate. We also have been skeptical of some of the arguments for such a prolonged presence, particularly the notion that keeping a couple of thousand USA troops will force the departure of Iranian forces and surrogates from Syria or otherwise counter Iranian influence.

"The possibility of a negotiated end to the conflict has never been more real in the past 17 years than it is now", said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General's special representative for Afghanistan.