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Trump says remaining US troops in Afghanistan should be home ‘by Christmas'

Trump says remaining US troops in Afghanistan should be home ‘by Christmas'
President Donald Trump has hinted that all US soldiers in Afghanistan could be home by Christmas, seemingly going against his own national security adviser, who said more than 2,000 troops would remain beyond the new year.

“We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday evening, exactly 19 years to the day after the US invasion of the country in 2001.

Though the missive did not indicate any shift in policy, the suggestion of a full withdrawal by the holiday is at odds with the timetable laid out by National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien just hours earlier on Wednesday, when he told an audience at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas that the administration would retain some 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan in early 2021.

Also on rt.com US to slash Afghanistan troop level to 2,500 by early 2021 – Trump’s national security adviser

Under a deal signed with the Taliban earlier this year, the US agreed to a complete pull-out of combat troops by spring 2021, withdrawing forces in stages as the Afghan government works toward a long-term ceasefire with the militant group. As of Wednesday, between 4,000 and 5,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, according to O’Brien, the lowest troop level since the initial phase of the war nearly two decades ago.

Despite vowing to bring a swift end to the war upon taking office in 2008, former president Barack Obama failed to implement any full withdrawal, instead launching a massive ‘surge’ that saw the US troop presence swell to over 100,000, the largest number to date. Though Obama scaled back deployments following the surge, he left more than 8,000 troops in the country at the end of his second term in 2016, dragging on the longest conflict in American history into a third presidency over what he deemed a “precarious” security situation.

Also on rt.com Trump says US to reduce troops to 4,000 in Afghanistan and 2,000 in Iraq as peace talks progress

While Trump has long called for US forces to be brought home from Afghanistan, and by all indications intends to fulfill the spring 2021 deadline for a complete withdrawal set under the Taliban deal, he has previously suggested that American intelligence personnel would remain in the country even after combat troops leave, hinting at prolonged US involvement.

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