The United States is reducing its troop levels in Afghanistan to 4,500 by November, the head of US Central Command, said on Wednesday.
“We’re on a glide slope (in Afghanistan) to be at 4,500 by the November time frame, late October, November time frame,” Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie said in an interview with media outlets, according to VOA.
“At 4,500 we’re still going to be able to accomplish the core task that we want to accomplish, and we’ve shown more than ample goodwill in our willingness to demonstrate that we don’t want to be an occupying force in this country, but we do have strategic interests, vital interests, that compel us to be certain that these entities such as al-Qaida and ISIS can’t be guests there to attack the United States,” McKenzie added.
The United States is expected to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by May next year under Washington’s deal with Taliban signed in February.
The United States has already completed first phase of the withdrawal to 8,600 troops and McKenzie said in July that intra-Afghan talks needed to start and US would need to be confident that the Taliban would not host Islamic State and al-Qaeda terrorist groups before there could be greatly reduced US presence.
When asked what has changed, McKenzie on Wednesday acknowledged that the Taliban “has still not shown conclusively that they are going to break with al-Qaida” and have “continued to go after the Afghan security forces.”