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Trump orders 2,500 troops to come back from Afghanistan, Iraq

NATO chief warns of ‘heavy price’ of US withdrawal, ISIS may rebuild position.

Imran Khan, Ashraf Ghani discuss future strategy to tackle Taliban challenges

Nation special report

WASHINGTON: At a crucial time when the strategic developments are being occurred in South Asia’s geo-political situation, the US President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered the partial troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan dashed to Kabul and Indian Prime Minister Narenderal Modi held detailed telephonic conversation with US President elect Joe Biden.

Donald Trump ordered Pentagon to pull 2,500 US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq by mid-January, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced Tuesday.

The Defense Department will cut the number of troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 and the number of forces in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500 by January 15, days before Trump is set to leave the office, The Hill reported.

“I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump’s orders to continue our repositioning of forces” from Afghanistan and Iraq, Miller told reporters at the Pentagon.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and H.E. Mr. Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan during a Tete-a-tete held at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on November 19, 2020.

Miller also said that Trump’s decision “is based on continuous engagement with his national security cabinet for the past several months, including ongoing discussions with me and my colleagues across the United States government.”

He added that he spoke with “key leaders in Congress as well as our allies and partners abroad to update them on these plans” earlier in the day.

In February, the Trump administration and Taliban had signed an agreement that calls for a full US withdrawal from Afghanistan if the terror group upholds counterterrorism commitments such as denying safe haven to al Qaeda.

Since the deal was signed, the Taliban has stepped up attacks against Afghan forces, which US officials have repeatedly condemned as threatening the peace process.

NATO chief warns

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said that the military organisation could pay a heavy price for leaving Afghanistan too early, after US President Donald Trump’s administration’s plan to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, Tolo News reported.

“Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organize attacks on our homelands. And ISIS (Daesh) could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.

“NATO Allies support the peace process in Afghanistan. As part of this process, we have already significantly adjusted our presence,” he added.

Stoltenberg said that he has repeatedly stressed that they will continue to review their troop levels in Afghanistan. “We now have under 12,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, and more than half of these are non-US forces.”

Imran Khan in Kabul

During his maiden visit to Kabul on Thursday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan will do everything possible to help reduce violence in Afghanistan and establish durable peace. Addressing a joint press conference alongside Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the Presidential Palace, the premier said that the two countries have historical links.

“The idea of visiting at a time when violence is increasing [in Afghanistan] is to assure you, President Ghani, that the people and the government of Pakistan have only one concern; peace in Afghanistan.

“The Afghan people have suffered for four decades,” he said. The premier also noted that despite the role Pakistan has played in getting the Taliban to speak with Americans and with regards to intra-Afghan dialogue, the level of violence has risen in Afghanistan.

Assuring the Afghan leadership that Pakistan will play its part in reducing violence in the country, he said: “If you feel there is somewhere Pakistan can help [in reducing violence], please let us know.

“We assure you that we will do whatever is within our reach,” he said. He stated that one of the reasons Islamabad was pushing for peace in Afghanistan is because of Pakistan’s tribal areas which were devastated by the ‘war on terror’. The only way to help people on both sides of the border is by peace, trade and connectivity,” he said.

During the premier’s visit, the two countries jointly issued a document titled ‘Shared vision between Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Islamic Republic of Pakistan to support peace and stability in both countries and the wider region.’

According to the document, high-ranking representatives from Pakistan and Afghanistan affirmed that both countries “should look towards a future relationship built on trust, aiming to achieve tangible outcomes from that relationship”.