Esper Says US Will Cut Troop Levels in Afghanistan to ‘Less Than 5,000’

The United States plans to cut its troop levels in Afghanistan to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday, adding detail to drawdown plans U.S. President Donald Trump announced earlier this week.

The United States currently has about 8,600 troops in Afghanistan. Trump said in an interview released Monday by Axios that the United States planned to lower that number to about 4,000.

Esper announced the lower troop levels in a Fox News interview.

In an interview with Axios last week, President Donald Trump said he would like to have “probably anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000” troops in Afghanistan by the time of the election on November 3.

CNN reported in June that the administration was finalizing plans to reduce the number of troops from the current level of 8,600 to approximately 4,500, a figure that would be the lowest number since the very earliest days of the war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001.

Esper’s confirmation of a major drawdown comes amid ongoing deadly Taliban attacks against the Afghan government, despite the insurgent group signing an agreement with the US in February.

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