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White House tentatively agrees to leave roughly 4,000 troops in Afghanistan beyond 2020 election
Jul 3, 2020
WASHINGTON — Top U.S. commanders believe they have tentative White House approval to leave just over 4,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond November, delaying a full American pullout until after the presidential election.
The plan, worked out at a meeting between Pentagon and White House officials late last month, would represent an about-face for President Donald Trump. He has pushed for a complete withdrawal of the 8,600 troops now in Afghanistan by the election, seeing a pullout as a much-
needed foreign policy achievement as his reelection prospects have deteriorated.
Trump had only recently told advisers that a full and rapid pullout could blunt the controversy over intelligence reports that Russia has paid militants to kill American service members, one official said. The president, who has made clear that he cares little about conditions inside Afghanistan, could still order a full withdrawal by November if he decides it would help him in the election, officials said.
But Pentagon officials warned that a complete withdrawal over the next five months could plunge Afghanistan into crisis, dooming peace talks U.S. officials have been seeking to jump-start between the Afghan government and Taliban militants and worsening already surging violence. Officials also warned the White House that getting out completely by November would force them to leave substantial amounts of equipment behind.