What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Meeting Trump’s goal in Afghanistan, U.S. forces are reduced to lowest level since 2001

The U.S. Department of Defense announced Friday that military-force levels in Afghanistan are now at 2,500 service personnel -- the goal President Trump had set. This is the lowest number of American troops since the U.S. first invaded the country in 2001, and comes as the Afghan government and Taliban peace talks stall. Special correspondent Jane Ferguson joins Amna Nawaz from Kabul to discuss.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Defense Department announced today that the United States, which once had over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, now has 2,500 service personnel remaining, completing a goal President Trump had set.

    It is the lowest number of American troops in Afghanistan since 2001, when the U.S. first invaded.

    Here's Amna Nawaz.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right, Judy.

    These reduced force levels come as the Afghan government and Taliban peace talks are stalled.

    For more on the situation there, we go to special correspondent Jane Ferguson in Kabul.

    Jane, welcome back. And it's good to see you.

    So, tell us what these mean. These reduced force levels, what do they mean for the situation the ground?

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Amna, it really sends a strong message on the ground here to the Afghan forces, to the Afghan government and people that the American government intends to stick to that February 2020 deal that the Trump administration signed with the Taliban.

    And that's despite, as you have mentioned, increased violence, the attacks on the Afghan forces by the Taliban and stalled talks. So, whilst that context continues, and the bloody fighting continues here, there is, of course, a complete recommitment to that deal and to that timeline to draw down the troops.

    So, it actually ups the pressure here and a lot of the fear of what's going to happen if the Americans fully, fully commit to that deal, and really do pull out completely by the end of April.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, this is the seeing through of the Trump plan. But what does this mean for the incoming Biden administration that's going to inherit the situation in Afghanistan?

  • Jane Ferguson:

    For Biden, he not only inherits America's longest war and one that, of course, he himself — one that, of course, was going on while he himself was vice president under Obama; he also inherits now this deal that Trump has signed.

    So, he is in a position where everybody in Afghanistan, whether it's the Taliban, or it's the government, or the people stuck in the middle, are all watching Biden, wondering, will he follow through on this deal? Will he try to negotiate for an extension beyond that May 1 deadline to pull every last American troop out?

    Or will he honor the deal, in which case he could be throwing the country into potential chaos? And in the meantime, can the two sides that have sat down for talks, but not had very much progress, reach a deal by then? That's even less likely.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Jane, you mentioned those peace talks. They have been working for years to get to this level of participation. What do we know about the future of those talks today?

  • Jane Ferguson:

    We know this is the greatest opportunity for peace in Afghanistan since the Bonn conference after the U.S. invasion that toppled the Taliban government.

    But the challenges are enormous. Not only do these talks come at a time whenever — there's still bloody fighting going on between the two sides who are talking, but there's also an increased pressure on the government here. And their position is that — essentially that the deal between the Taliban and the Americans has vastly weakened their leverage.

    They have released 5,000 Taliban prisoners just to get these talks going. And now, with the Americans continuing to commit to their withdrawal, with their complete withdrawal, by May, that leaves the Afghan government and the Afghan negotiators from Kabul in quite a weakened position.

    And we have to remember as well that, from the Taliban perspective — and they have been saying this vocally — that they feel as though they have won this war. So, from their position, this is a win-win.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And that is special correspondent Jane Ferguson reporting for us from Kabul.

    Jane, good to see you.

  • Jane Ferguson:

    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment