US quietly reduces troops in Afghanistan despite no peace deal

Strike targeting Taliban kills 40 civilians at wedding next door
U.S. Department of Defense

The United States has quietly reduced the number of US troops in Afghanistan by 2,000 over the last year despite the lack of a peace deal with the Taliban, Gen. Scott Miller, the head of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said in a press conference in Kabul on Monday.

“We’ve reduced our authorized strength by 2,000 here, so there’s a constant look as a military commander to optimize the force here,” Miller said.

“I am confident we have the right capabilities,” Miller added while speaking alongside the US defense secretary and Afghan defense and interior ministers.

Prior to the reduction, the Pentagon publicly said that the US military had about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the majority of those tasked with training local Afghan forces.

US officials say the reduction has been ongoing for months, part of an effort by Miller, an officer who has spent much of his career in the Special Operations Forces, to streamline the US presence in the country and is not part of any broader potential reductions that have been linked to a possible peace deal with the Taliban, the prospects for which were thrown into doubt after President Donald Trump called off secret talks with the Taliban at Camp David.

Speaking alongside Miller, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said the reductions were in line with similar efficiency efforts that other US military commands were undergoing.

Trump had previously said that he was going to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan to 8,600, with the remaining forces to be focused on counterterrorism missions against groups like al Qaeda and the local ISIS affiliate.

“We’re going down to 8,600 and then we make a determination from there as to what happens … we’re bringing it down,”