US top General declines to endorse President Trump’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan

WASHINGTON: Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a recent interview with NPR, after the Trump Administration gave a series of conflicting statements on the nature of their departure from Afghanistan, stated that the agreement between the United States and the Taliban was “conditions based”, and that they aim to “responsibly” end the war.

Last week, President Trump in yet another Twitter tirade, gestured towards the complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by Christmas, which can both be seen as an aggressive timeline to end the country’s nearly two-decade long military presence in the country, and also as a potential bid to attract support for his reelection campaign.

This only added to the confusion on the Trump Administration’s strategy for exiting Afghanistan, without placing the sustainability of democracy in the country at risk, which came as a surprise to both the Pentagon and the Department of Defense.

In the interview, Gen. Milley attempted to bring more clarity to the situation, stating that ““I’m going to engage in the rigorous analysis of the situation based on the conditions and the plans that I am aware of and my conversations with the President”, adding that “the decision of the President [is based] on a conditions-based withdrawal”. Milley mentioned that “we’re monitoring all of those conditions closely; and we’re [the military] are giving our best military advice on those conditions so that the president can make an informed, deliberate, responsible decision”.

Numerous military officials and strategic experts have argued that a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan would place the fragile peace deal with the Taliban at risk, and leave the Kabul government in an untenable position. President Trump repeatedly expressed a desire to withdraw troops from Afghanistan before the stipulated February 29 deadline, considering the conditional requirements of the deal itself, which many have deduced as a means of gaining political momentum prior to the election – surprising the military on many occasions with his “off-the-cuff” remarks.

The Taliban and the Kabul government have struggled to advance their negotiations, with the ceasefire being continually violated, and multiple bombings and assassinations being used as a pressure target by insurgent groups – despite the Taliban maintaining deniability in instigating violence.