A plan under consideration as part of the peace negotiations would pull all of the roughly 14,000 US troops from Afghanistan within three to five years, along with other international troops in the region, the New York Times reports.
Portions of the plan were shared with the outlet by current and former US and European officials.
The plan would halve the US troop presence in Afghanistan in the next few months. With European and Australian troops taking charge of training Afghan forces, remaining US forces would be freed up to focus more attention on counterterrorism strikes.
Taliban in a statement released on Thursday morning rejected the reports and said such a suggestion was not raised in their talks with US negotiators in Qatar. The statement also said that an interim government was also not discussed during the Doha talks.
The plan has been embraced in some circles in Washington and at NATO headquarters, but American officials caution that President Trump could go down a different path, the report says.
US Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan recently said allies would be consulted before the US withdraws any troops from Afghanistan.
“There will be no unilateral troop reductions,” Shanahan told reporters earlier this month in Brussels after meeting with NATO defense chiefs. “That was one of the messages: It will be coordinated. We’re together.”
Pentagon representative Lt. Col. Kone Faulkner said nothing is finalized, and the Pentagon is “considering all options of force numbers and disposition.”
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad is working to secure a peace agreement in Afghanistan and will participate in negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar on Saturday, following up on discussions from earlier in the week. The plan is intended to aid him during these discussions.
The four main topics of US-Taliban talks in Qatar have been US forces withdrawal from Afghanistan, ensuring that Afghanistan’s territory is not used as a threat to any other country, a comprehensive ceasefire and direct talks with the Afghan government. This was confirmed by the Afghan government as well as by sources ahead of the talks.
Taliban and the US peace negotiators in Doha are taking a two-day break after “extensive” discussions on Tuesday and Wednesday on counterterrorism and US troops withdrawal, the Taliban said in a statement on Thursday.