US troops to exit Afghanistan by 2024: Report

Indo Asian News Service

Washington, March 1 (IANS) The US will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan over the next three to five years under a new Pentagon plan, the American media has reported.

The plan, which was supposed to help talks between the US and Afghan Taliban, also called for cutting by half the 14,000 American troops currently in that South Asian nation in coming months, The New York Times reported.

The plan, which has reportedly received broad acceptance in Washington and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) headquarters in Brussels, stipulates that the 8,600 European and other international troops stationed in Afghanistan would focus on training the Afghan military, shifting US forces' task to counterterrorism operations.

Pentagon spokesman Kone Faulkner though made it clear that no decisions have been made as peace talks were ongoing, and the US "is considering all options of force numbers and disposition", the NYT report said.

The fifth round of talks between the two sides began in Qatar capital Doha on Monday, Xinhua news agency said, quoting the NYT that US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on Thursday called the "negotiations with Taliban were productive".

The talks will resume on Saturday after internal deliberations.

The Pentagon has reportedly stepped up airstrikes and special raid operations in Afghanistan to the highest levels since 2014, aiming to give negotiators leverage in peace talks with the Taliban.

The death toll of US personnel in Afghanistan has surpassed 2,400 since it invaded the country in 2001 following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.

--IANS

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