WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is in the “process of evaluating” whether to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan, says Vice President Mike Pence while stressing the need to reconsider America’s involvement in “never-ending wars”.
“The president has been very clear about that. And now, I think, the president is in the process of evaluating options about what has been an 18-year conflict in Afghanistan and determining what our best options are,” Pence said in an interview to Fox News, which was broadcast on Friday evening.
Fox News quoted senior US officials telling its correspondents in Washington that the potential manoeuvre would involve more than 3,000 US troops getting pulled out while the rest would be recalled later.
The vice president’s remarks came amid reports that President Trump had ordered the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of 7,000 troops, about half of the US forces deployed in Afghanistan.
Pence also talked about the president’s plan to bring home all US troops from Syria, adding that there would be no abrupt withdrawal from any war zone, Syria or Afghanistan.
“We are going to do this and are doing this in an orderly way. I heard him in dozens and dozens of speeches talk about bringing our troops home wherever we could,” he said.
Asked whether Trump would do a Syria-style withdrawal from Afghanistan as well, Pence said that a pullout from Kabul was under active consideration.
“Well, the president is in the process of evaluating that, as we speak,” he said. “In his speech in August, President Trump, basically through new rules of engagement, new resources, additional military personnel, gave our folks on the ground the ability to take the fight, be at the tip of the spear, supporting the Afghan National Army in the battle against the Taliban, ISIS Khorasan, Al Qaeda, re-emerging in Afghanistan.”
Pence described the war in Afghanistan as an 18-year long “tough fight”, adding that President Trump was now looking for “best options in terms of putting America first, protecting America’s interests in the region, making sure that we confront terrorism if it rears its head once again”.
The process of evaluation, he said, would focus on getting the best results from less of the military commitment and see those resources and troops coming home.
In remarks to the media on Wednesday, Trump also urged other countries, specifically Russia, Pakistan, and India, to become more involved in the fighting in Afghanistan. “Why isn’t Russia there? Why isn’t India there? Why isn’t Pakistan there?” Trump said in televised comments to reporters during a cabinet meeting on January 2. “Why are we there and we’re 6,000 miles away?” he asked.
American talk-show hosts, however, have warned that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan could further degrade security and jeopardise possible peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the insurgency.