US to pull 7,000 troops from Afghanistan

In this photo taken on July 7, 2018, a US Army soldier from Nato and an Afghan Local Police (ALP) look on in a checkpointImage copyright
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Image caption

US troops are part of a Nato-led mission to train and assist Afghan forces

The Trump administration is planning to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan, US media say.

Reports, citing unnamed officials, say about 7,000 troops – roughly half the remaining US military presence in the country – could go home within months.

The reports come a day after the president announced the country’s military withdrawal from Syria.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Trump’s defence secretary, Jim Mattis, announced his resignation from his post.

In his letter of departure, Gen Mattis mentioned his diverging views with the president, but did not cite troops withdrawals directly.

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Getty Images

Image caption

A successor will take over from Gen Mattis in February

Before his election, Mr Trump repeatedly publicly advocated leaving Afghanistan, but last year he indicated he would keep boots on the ground indefinitely to prevent the country’s collapse amid a Taliban resurgence.

Reports about the sharp reduction of forces emerged on Thursday, but have not been confirmed by US defence officials.

What is the story of the US in Afghanistan?

The US has been in Afghanistan since 2001, after the 11 September attacks – the longest war in US history.

The Taliban had refused to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden – who had claimed responsibility for the attack.

It led then-President George W Bush to launch a military operation to find Bin Laden and remove the Taliban from power.

The US eventually killed Bin Laden and American-led combat operations against the group officially ended in 2014.

But in the years since then, the Taliban’s power and reach have soared – and US troops have stayed on the ground in an effort to stabilise the country.

In September 2017 Mr Trump announced the US would send 3,000 extra troops to the country amid a shift of strategy.

Conflict in Afghanistan goes all the way back to the 1970s. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

It eventually withdraw but left Afghanistan in ruins, with over a million civilians killed. This set the stage for the Taliban’s eventual takeover of the country.

What has reaction been?

The Washington Post reports the potential move is being met with opposition by some of Mr Trump’s senior cabinet officials including outgoing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House national security adviser John Bolton.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham tweeted that any withdrawal of troops would be a “high risk strategy” which could reverse US progress in the region and pave the way toward a “second 9/11”.

He had earlier spoken out against the Syria withdrawal, which he described as a “huge Obama-like mistake”.

Wednesday’s announcement on Syria was also met with criticism from US allies and coalition partners.

Some groups warned the move could create a vacuum whereby the depleted Islamic State (IS) group could “revive itself”.

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