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Pakistan welcomes United States drawdown in Syria

25 December 2018

The comments from the USA officials came a day after Trump's stunning announcement that the US would pull its troops out of Syria. It's the US whose policy has gone off the rails: "The announced partial troop withdrawal emboldens the Taliban to press for a full pull out".

There are now about 14,000 US troops serving in a counterterrorism mission against the Taliban and ISIS and as part of a train, advise, and assist mission for Afghan security forces.

The announcement seems certain to complicate efforts to reach a peace deal, mostly because it gives the Taliban leverage by allowing them to hold off until a total US withdrawal, or step up their demands over a weakened Afghan government.

Publicly, Trump's national security team has said its approach was effective.

The number of Afghan civilians killed in United States and Afghan airstrikes has risen sharply this year as Western-backed forces have stepped up aerial operations with the aim of forcing the Taliban to agree to peace talks.

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"It will be the most disastrous decision any president could make as to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan without conditions changing".

Against the advice of many in his own administration, President Donald Trump is pulling USA troops out of Syria.

There has been no official comment from the Taliban, but one of the militant group's senior commanders on Friday welcomed the decision. "We think that any offensive into northeast Syria by anyone is a bad idea", Jeffrey said. We also have been skeptical of some of the arguments for such a prolonged presence, particularly the notion that keeping a couple of thousand USA troops will force the departure of Iranian forces and surrogates from Syria or otherwise counter Iranian influence.

"America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress".

The Taliban are fighting to oust foreign forces and defeat the Western-backed Kabul government.

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Since then, United States forces have provided training and advice, assisting in military operations only when requested by Afghan troops. The Taliban insurgency has strengthened its grip over the past three years, with the government in Kabul controlling just 56 percent of Afghanistan, down from 72 percent in 2015, a USA government report showed.

"The sudden decision has come as a shock", an Afghan official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, told RFE/RL.

"Would you be thinking of a ceasefire if your main opponent has just withdrawn half their troops?"

The decision on Syria has bewildered USA allies and triggered harsh reaction from Trump's fellow Republicans in Congress.

Officials now worry that any move to withdraw U.S. troops this year could dampen those prospects and simply encourage the Taliban to wait it out until they can take advantage of the gaps when the forces leave.

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"Announcing a move like this now could squander the best chance to date to launch a peace process to end a war that has raged for far too long", says Kugelman, adding that Washington would lose a major bargaining chip in talks.

Pakistan welcomes United States drawdown in Syria