Washington: (DNA) The US Central Command’s top general, Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, said that he cannot recommend a full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan unless the Taliban demonstrate they no longer support al-Qaida forces there.
“If conditions would allow, we’re prepared to go to zero” by May, McKenzie said in a video conference hosted by the Washington-based think tank Middle East Institute. “If asked my opinion, those conditions have not been fully met.” The US is currently on track to reduce troops to 8,600 by next month, as part of a larger withdrawal plan, provided that conditions are met by the Taliban.
McKenzie’s remarks come just weeks after news reports indicated President Donald Trump had demanded the Pentagon draw up plans to fully withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the Nov. 3 presidential election. McKenzie reiterated the US long-stated claim that it maintains troops in Afghanistan to ensure terrorist networks cannot use that country to plan attacks against Americans. “The threat to the United States is not the Taliban, it’s never been the Taliban, it’s the entities they allow to live in Afghanistan,” McKenzie said, referring primarily to al-Qaida.
The Taliban has regularly fought against Daesh “terrorists” in Afghanistan, McKenzie said.