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Patrick Shanahan: U.S. will not unilaterally pull troops from Afghanistan



The U.S. will not be unilaterally pull its forces from Afghanistan and any drawdown will be done in close consultation with NATO allies, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Thursday in comments that raises questions about the Trump administration's strategy to exit a war zone in which it is operated for 17 years

Speaking to reporters after meeting with NATO and European leaders in Brussels, Mr. Shanahan seemed to shoot down reports that President Trump plans to pull about half of the 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan in the immediate future. Mr. Trump in his state of the union address last week America's "endless wars" and appeared to be laying the groundwork for a withdrawal.

But Mr. Shanahan said the strategy moving forward is to put maximum military pressure on the Taliban to continue peace negotiations with the Afghan government. A key part of that pressure centers on keeping a military presence in Afghanistan is reached.

"There will be no unilateral troop reductions," Mr. Shanahan said. "That was one of the messages: It will be coordinated. We're together. ”

Any drawdown, he said, will be done in close consultation with NATO.

" What we talked about was, how do we double down on support for Afghan national defense and security forces to put Even more pressure on the Taliban, "Mr. Shanahan said of his discussions with NATO leaders

NATO leaders said they've talked about troop withdrawals and so have not been able to prepare for a partial or full drawdown.

"I don't have the direction to do it, or the guidance to do it, or the decision to drive it, ”said US Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, NATO's top military officer

The administration in recent weeks has held marathon peace talks with Taliban leaders. The Taliban, which controlled the country and offered safe haven to al Qaeda leading up to the Sept. 1

1, 2001, terrorist attacks, so far has refused to hold direct talks with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani's government and has yet to agree to any meaningful ceasefire.

Part of any future deal

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