US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said American troop levels in Afghanistan would depend on the Taliban upholding its commitments with the U.S. regardless of the outcome of domestic peace talks set to start in Doha, Qatar on Saturday.
“There are a series of commitments that the Taliban have made, we have every expectation that they will follow through on them,” Pompeo told reporters on his way to Doha, where he will oversee the start of talks between the two sides. “Our commitment to reduce our forces to zero is conditioned on them executing their obligations under the agreement.”
He declined to say whether the Trump administration would wait for an accord before withdrawing all U.S. forces.The peace negotiations were supposed to have started in early March, weeks after the Taliban and the United States signed an agreement under which the U.S. would start withdrawing some of its 13,000 troops so long as the Taliban pledged to cut ties with terrorists and prevent Afghan territory from becoming militant havens.
“We can be proud of what we achieved but it’s time for the next step,” Pompeo said, adding that his objectives were based on two demands from President Donald Trump: Draw down troops as quickly as possible while also maintaining American security.
Trump has made a number of moves in recent months, as the November election approaches, to begin fulfilling a 2016 promise to get the U.S. out of what he called “endless wars.” On Wednesday, he announced further troop reductions in Iraq.