Dec. 16 (UPI) — A drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan can be expected by the end of the week, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday.
Speaking in Kabul, Graham said President Donald Trump could reduce U.S. personnel levels by as many as 4,400 troops, from about 13,000 to 8,600.
Trump announced his approval of a drawdown at that level in the past. During a Thanksgiving Day visit to U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan, he said forces would be reduced “very substantially.” The withdrawal of troops, though, could be seen as a concession to the Taliban, the Islamist military and political organization that currently controls about half the country, thus undermining the U.S. negotiating position.
The Taliban attacked the Bagram base last week when a suicide bomber struck a nearby passenger air terminal and medical facility adjacent to the base. A firefight between the Taliban and Afghan and U.S. forces lasted nine to 10 hours.
Graham, in a television interview Sunday, stressed that no resolution to U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will be possible unless fighting stops.
Speaking of potential peace talks, Graham said, “I don’t think it’s a credible process as long as they [the Taliban] use violence. Before I’d even consider dealing with the Taliban, I’d want a cease-fire. But at the end of the day, how does this war end? I do not encourage these negotiations as long as they’re resorting to violence. And I think we need to do a deal with Pakistan.”
U.S. Forces Afghanistan announced Monday that no order to reduce troop levels was received.