BRUSSELS — U.S. plans to reduce the number of forces in Afghanistan will be coordinated with allies, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told NATO Thursday.
Over the past few months, various administration and U.S. officials have suggested that as many as half of the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan would be coming home soon, whether as just a straight cut, or as part of ongoing negotiations with the Taliban to support peace talks, or just to make the force staying there more efficient, as Afghan special forces assume a much larger role in offensive operations against the Taliban.
On Thursday, both Shanahan and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg alluded to future cuts to the force size in the now 18-year-old military operations there.
The U.S. and the Taliban have agreed ‘in principle’ to withdraw U.S. forces, but a final peace deal is still a long ways off, the U.S. envoy said Friday.
“Of course our military commanders are constantly assessing our posture, as they do for any NATO mission,” Stoltenberg said.
Shanahan was asked whether allies had expressed concerns on reports that the U.S. was moving forward with a significant troop decrease or impacted whether their own commitments there.
“There will be no [US] unilateral troop reductions,” Shanahan said. "It will be coordinated. We’re together."
“So what we talked about was, how do we double down in our support for Afghan national offensive security forces to put even more pressure on the Taliban?”
The proposed plan still needs Taliban, Afghan government approval.
Shanahan got some of those answers during his visit to Kabul, where U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Commander Gen. Scott Miller took him and reporters traveling with him to Camp Morehead, where the U.S. has trained approximately 14,000 Afghan commando forces of a 22,000 goal.
Although those forces are the most highly trained, until recently they were largely used to man checkpoints. That’s been shifted, Afghan Lt. Gen. Bismillah Waziri said. Waziri said he expects his commando force to reach full offensive capability by 2020.