American troops to be pulled from Afghanistan - 12/21/2018 5:39:26 AM

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will leave his Cabinet position at the end of February after disagreements with President Trump including a troop withdrawal from Syria

Peace talks aside, the announced withdrawal has Afghan generals and analysts anxious about the ability of the beleaguered Afghan National Afghan Security Force to stave off a Taliban insurgency unfettered by U.S. troops and their pounding air power.

U.S. President Donald Trump's reported plans to withdraw around 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, roughly half the remaining U.S. military presence there, has prompted much discussion about the impact the drawdown could have on the country.

Qureshi added that Pakistan had released some Taliban detainees to help facilitate the peace talks and to "create an enabling environment".

But the Taliban said the withdrawal could in fact assist peace efforts by helping to build trust.

Taliban insurgents, however, control almost half of Afghanistan and are more powerful than at any time since a 2001 USA -led invasion.

"A complete withdrawal of US forces would very likely cause the Taliban to make gains in key areas throughout Afghanistan", Roggio said.

The talks in Abu Dhabi earlier this week, with peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad leading the U.S. side, were also attended by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.

Afghanistan's security forces rely heavily on USA airpower against both Taliban and an upstart Islamic State affiliate, and Afghan military officials note the announcement by the Trump administration comes as the country's security is at its worst since 2014, when more than 100,000 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops pulled out of the country and handed off security to Afghans.

USA troops invaded Afghanistan in November 2001 in response to the September 11 attacks.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday told reporters in the central city of Multan that the decision is good for ongoing peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the U.S. Observers, however, have warned that the United States withdrawal could have a "devastating" impact on stability in Kabul and any such move would offer Taliban militants a psychological edge in the conflict and propaganda victory.

Some analysts say the US troop withdrawal could also have a silver lining and could send a useful message to all sides.

Trump's reported decision apparently surprised Afghan officials, even though the US president had previously voiced opposition to the USA war effort there.

Several high ranking Afghan military officials said the morale of Afghanistan's under-trained and poorly equipped security forces is already at a dangerously low ebb.

President Ashraf Ghani's spokesman on Friday said that a reduction in number of the troops will not affect the security of the country.

"It's becoming clear that Kabul was blindsided", says Smith.

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