U.S. President Donald Trump wants to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan before the next presidential election in the United States in 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared on Monday.
Asked if he expects a reduction in American forces in Afghanistan before the upcoming presidential election in November 2020 during an event sponsored by the Economic Club of Washington, DC, Pompeo responded:
That’s my directive from the President of the United States. He’s been unambiguous: End the endless wars, drawdown, reduce. It won’t just be us. Those of you who have served know that [NATO’s] Resolute Support [mission] has countries from all across Europe and around the world. We hope that overall, the need for combat forces in the region is reduced.
At the end of 2014, the U.S. ended its combat mission and assumed a train, advise, and assist role. The change in mission ultimately allowed the Taliban to gain control of more territory than during any other time since American troops removed it from power in late 2001.
Taliban narco-jihadis currently control or contest about half of Afghanistan. Despite the ongoing peace talks, the terrorist group continues to reap the financial benefits from trafficking and cultivating opium and its heroin derivative, considered the group’s top source of funding.
The main goal of Trump’s South Asia strategy, unveiled in 2017, is to apply military pressure on the Taliban to achieve a “political reconciliation” between the terrorist group and the Afghan government.
Taliban terrorists still refuse to directly negotiate with Kabul, claiming it will only do so after the full withdrawal of foreign forces. Nevertheless, Pompeo has said U.S. negotiators hope to have a peace deal by September 1.
Pompeo’s comments on Monday about reducing America’s military footprint suggest the Trump administration is satisfied with the current trajectory of the peace negotiations.
The war in Afghanistan continues to rage despite the talks. Taliban jihadis have intensified attacks amid the negotiations. The group is responsible for nearly four out of every ten of the 3,812 civilian casualties in the first half of this year, the United Nations found.
On Tuesday, the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported:
The conflict in Afghanistan continues to have a devastating impact on civilians, with the latest U.N. update released today documenting 3,812 civilian casualties (1,366 deaths and 2,446 injured) in the first half of 2019.
While the number of civilians killed and injured is 27 percent down from the same period in 2018 –the year that saw record high numbers of recorded civilian casualties– the U.N. notes with concern disturbing patterns such as the 27 percent increase in civilian deaths in the second quarter of 2019 compared with the first.
The U.N. attributed the majority of fatalities to Afghan forces and the U.S.-NATO troops that support them with airstrikes together described as pro-government forces (PGFs) in the report.
Nevertheless, the report acknowledged that anti-government elements (AGEs) like the Taliban and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) are behind the majority of casualties, including both deaths and injuries.
“UNAMA attributed 52 percent of all civilian casualties to A.G. Es, with 38 percent attributed to Taliban, 11 percent to Daesh/Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), and 3 percent to unidentified A.G. Es,” the report said.
Terrorists were responsible for a total of 1,968 civilian casualties (531 deaths and 1,437 injured). Meanwhile, the U.N. determined that Afghan forces and U.S.-NATO troops were behind “1,397 civilian casualties (717 deaths and 680 injured),” adding:
PGFs caused 37 percent of all civilian casualties in the first half of 2019 (18 percent by Afghan national security forces, 12 percent by International Military Forces, 2 percent by Pro-Government armed groups and the remainder to undetermined or multiple PGFs).”
Furthermore, the U.N. noted that while deaths attributed to pro-Kabul forces appear to be collateral damage from ground engagements and airstrikes, terrorists are directly targeting civilians.
The report found:
UNAMA documented 985 civilian casualties (306 deaths and 679 injured) from AGE attacks that deliberately targeted civilians, including government officials, tribal elders, aid workers, religious scholars, mullahs and places of worship and culture.
Women (144 deaths and 286 injured) and children (327 deaths and 880 injured) continue to be disproportionately impacted by the war, comprising more than 40 percent of all casualties.
Currently, the main goal of the peace negotiations is to achieve a ceasefire and intra-Afghan talks.
Negotiators are also working out the details of an agreement to pull out foreign forces in exchange for Taliban assurances that it will not allow Afghanistan to harbor international terrorists.
A separate U.N. report, however, revealed this week that the Taliban and al-Qaeda remain firm allies. Al-Qaeda still considers Afghanistan a haven, the U.N. added.
Taliban jihadis have rejected Trump administration plans to leave behind a residual force to ensure the terrorist group keeps any promises made under a potential peace agreement.