Trump decides to pull half of United States troops from Afghanistan

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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis quit Thursday, saying his views were no longer reconcilable with Trump's.

Only hours before reports of the plan, the head of the British armed forces had said he believed Donald Trump would not announce a major troop withdrawal, as he had from Syria earlier this week.

The idea of pulling back from Afghanistan drew a sharp rebuke from Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

"The conditions in Afghanistan - at the present moment - make American troop withdrawals a high risk strategy".

At the media talk on Saturday, Qureshi said a second round of talks was expected soon between the U.S. and Taliban.

Senator Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told USA Today that the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is not tethered to a strategy for the war there.

The surprise move stunned and dismayed foreign diplomats and officials in Kabul who are involved in an intensifying push to end the 17-year conflict with the Taliban, which already controls vast amounts of territory and is causing "unsustainable" Afghan troop casualties.

He said most of the United States forces likely to be withdrawn "are engaged in a training and advising mission for Afghan forces, and Afghan forces are capable of defending the country". In a statement issued after the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi talks, Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdulllah Mohib said: "As a sovereign country, no other country or individual has the right or the authority to discuss new governance formulas or structures for Afghanistan, including political dispensations, which violate the Afghan Constitution", he said.

Trump in that speech acknowledged his original instinct was to pull out, but he said the calculation is different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.

The drawdown, if confirmed, would follow Trump's decision to completely pull all USA forces out of Syria.

U.S. troops stormed into Afghanistan in November 2001 in an invasion triggered by the September 11 attacks. "There will be a significant withdrawal", the American official told AFP on condition of anonymity on Thursday.

"The last thing it (Pakistan) wants is a radical Islamist state on its Western border, even if that eliminates or reduces Indian influence in Afghanistan", said Shuja Nawaz, author and fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center.

The United States has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, some of them serving in the NATO-led Resolute Support training and advisory mission, while others take part in separate counterterrorism operations against militant groups.

Lindsey Graham (R-Deep State-S.C.) over his opposition to plans to withdraw all US troops from Syria.

But she said North Atlantic Treaty Organisation foreign ministers met as recently as this month to express "steadfast commitment to ensuring long-term security and stability in Afghanistan".

A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the military has begun planning the details of a drawdown, which could include reviewing what bases the United States would keep and what type of troops would be removed. The decision followed a three-day long meeting of the USA special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad with Taliban members in Abu Dhabi earlier last week.

Meanwhile, Trump defended his unexpected decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, a move met with concern by members of the anti-Islamic State coalition but lauded by Russian Federation.

It is not clear if USA peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad or the Afghan government had been warned of Trump's plans in advance.