US won’t be withdrawing from Afghanistan this year despite Trump's tweets: national security adviser

US won’t be withdrawing from Afghanistan this year despite Trump's tweets: national security adviser

Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Robert O'Brien participates in a Halifax chat at HISF 2019.

On October 7, President Donald Trump discussed the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan on Twitter and posted, "We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas." But National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien, on Friday, said that it is unrealistic to expect the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan that soon.

The 54-year-old O'Brien, according to the Associated Press, said, "I think what the president was doing is, he was expressing the same desire I think every president since the Revolutionary War has said. Whenever we're at war, whether it was the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I or World War II, all presidents.... want the troops home by Christmas."

On Friday, AP journalists Deb Riechmann and Lolita C. Baldor report that O'Brien "appeared to take a shot at Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Milley, in recent days, said that the U.S. is executing a plan to reduce the number of troops to 4,500 in November."

The U.S. has had a military presence in Afghanistan for many years. During the 1980s — following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan — President Ronald Reagan was a supporter of the anti-Soviet Mujahideen. And after the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. went to war in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

O'Brien, discussing a possible reduction of U.S. troops in in Afghanistan, said, "We're on a path right now that looks like about 4,500 this fall and a smaller number in January and February, but if the conditions permitted, look, we'd love to get people out earlier…. In the early part of next year, we're going to be down to 2,500 troops."

Riechmann and Baldor note that Trump's October 7 tweet "alarmed Pentagon and State Department officials who fear that putting a definitive date on troop withdrawal could undercut negotiations to finalize ongoing peace negotiations between the Taliban and representatives of Afghan society, including the current Afghan government. They also worry that a hasty withdrawal could force the U.S. to leave behind sensitive military equipment — and they continue to stress that the Taliban have still not met requirements to reduce violence against the Afghans, a key element of the U.S. withdrawal plan."

The AP reporters explain that "exit from Afghanistan after 19 years was laid out in a February agreement Washington reached with the Taliban. That agreement said U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan in 18 months, provided the Taliban honored a commitment to fight terrorist groups, with most attention seemingly focused on the Islamic State group's affiliate in the country."

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