"We're going to keep a presence there. We're reducing that presence very substantially and we're going to always have a presence. We're going to have high intelligence," Trump told Fox News Radio.
The head of state also affirmed that the U.S. will cut down its military forces to 8,600 troops from around 14,000 in the first on-the-record confirmation of the number. However, previous reports said the U.S. was willing to fully withdraw from the country.
One security official put the withdrawal timeline at 14 to 24 months, but the chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said on Wednesday it is still too premature to talk about withdrawing U.S. troops.
Trump’s comments come as U.S. and Taliban negotiators are engaged in a ninth round of talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, to seal a historic deal to end the 18-year Afghan war caused by the U.S. invasion in 2001.
As the Taliban spokesperson stated earlier, we have had no discussions about an interim government. Governance decisions are for Afghans to make in intra-Afghan negotiations. #AfghanPeaceProcess
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace)
August 24, 2019
On Wednesday, speaking to Al Jazeera, the Taliban's political spokesman in Doha, Suhail Shaheen, said the two sides were close to reaching an agreement as the “final point is the implementation and the mechanism of the deal which is being discussed."
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani insists that elections planned for Sept. 28 will give the next government a powerful mandate to decide the country’s future. But the U.S. is seeking a peace deal by Sept. 1, weeks before the vote.
The Taliban, who retook control of half the country, dismiss the elections as a sham and warned Afghans to avoid both campaign rallies and the polls, as they won’t “talk to the Kabul administration as a government,” seeing they consider it a U.S. pawn.
The war in Afghanistan is Washington’s longest conflict in its history. It was started after the September 11 attacks in New York City when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan as part of the so-called "war on terror" to dismantle Al-Qaeda by removing the Taliban from power.
However, after a short-run removal, the Taliban regrouped between 2003 and 2008, to fight back and retake most of the country. The U.S. government now has found themselves in the position to broker a deal with the Taliban.
Almost US$975 billion has been spent and approximately 220,000 people have died.