Pentagon Uncertain of US Troop Withdrawal in Afghanistan as Deadline Nears

The Pentagon said on Monday that it has not decided whether to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, as Washington considers a potential end to America’s longest war.

“Everybody here is mindful of looming deadlines,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters during a press briefing. “And I cannot today sketch out for you what specific planning is going on when there hasn’t been a decision made yet about future force posture in Afghanistan,” he said.

In February 2020 the United States brokered a deal with the Taliban that would usher in a permanent cease-fire and reduced further the U.S. military’s footprint from approximately 13,000 troops to 8,600 by mid-July last year.
By May 2021, all foreign forces would leave the war-weary country, according to the deal. There are about 2,500 U.S. troops currently in the country.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told reporters on the heels of the NATO meeting that the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan would be contingent on a reduction of violence in the country.

“The violence must decrease, now,” Austin said, in his first press briefing with reporters. “I told our allies that no matter what the outcome of our review, the United States will not undertake a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan,” he said, referring to the virtual NATO meetings.

“There will be no surprises. We will consult each other, consult together and decide together and act together,” Austin said of the NATO-led mission.

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