WASHINGTON -- The US military will continue providing support to the Afghan government toward a negotiated settlement for peace, US officials say, even as plans call for a reduction of US troops in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon announced Tuesday (November 17) its intention to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Afghanistan, reducing the total number to 2,500 by January 15.
US Acting Secretary of Defence Christopher Miller said that he spoke with President Ashraf Ghani, "who expressed his gratitude for every American service member who has fought for peace and strengthened the longstanding friendship between our countries".
"President Ghani highlighted the caliber of our troops, which he noted has always been more important than the quantity," Miller told reporters at the Pentagon.
"We continue to stand with him as his government works toward a negotiated settlement for peace," he said.
"Both sides talked about the peace process, strengthening mutual relations and continued meaningful US military support to the Afghan Security and Defence Forces," Ghani's office said in statement November 17.
US military officials have said the remaining US forces in Afghanistan will be mission-focused on countering extremist groups that threaten Afghanistan and countries around the world, and on supporting Afghan forces.
"I have not seen anything to suggest that foreign troops will fully withdraw from Afghanistan," Afghan Acting Defence Minister Asadullah Khalid told lawmakers November 17.
"If for any reason foreign troops leave the country, at the moment 96% of military operations are being conducted by our own army," he said. "Only in 4% of our operations do we have air support from our international allies."
"We are not worried," Khalid said of a possible foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. "We are ready to defend our country independently."
"Our transport and fighter aircraft have the capabilities to help us fight the enemy on every front, and the delivery of new aircraft to us continues," he said. "A few days ago, we received four aircraft from NATO."