Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Trump reportedly gives 'conditional' approval to Afghan deal that may lead to US troop withdrawal
President Trump has conditionally approved a peace deal with the Taliban that may lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops as long as the Taliban can commit to a reduction in violence for a roughly one-week period later this month, according to a new report in The New York Times.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told top Afghan leaders of the proposed plan in phone calls on Tuesday, according to the Times, which also reported that a senior American official said Trump had given his preliminary approval on Monday, the same day he made a visit to Dover Air Force Base to pay respects to two Army Special Forces soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan on Saturday.
"These are terrible sacrifices for the families. And these guys are heroes, they're real warriors and did a great job for the American people," Robert O'Brien, Trump's national security advisor, told reporters. "These are tough times. It's tough for the president but he thinks it's important to be there for the families and recognize them."
U.S. military officials with Operation Resolute Support did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Task & Purpose, nor did the White House or The State Department.
The U.S. reduced its troop strength in Afghanistan from 15,000 to 13,000 American troops in October. Though details regarding the timeline for a further reduction were not yet clear, a senior diplomat told The Times the tentative deal with the Taliban was "95 percent agreed to in principle."
"If the Taliban do end hostilities and a deal is signed, the United States would then begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops, and direct negotiations would start between the Taliban and Afghan leaders over the future of their country," Times reporters Mujib Mashal and Lara Jakes wrote.
In his State of the Union address earlier this month, Trump vowed he would bring troops home from Afghanistan though he did not offer a timeline.
"In Afghanistan, the determination and valor of our warfighters has allowed us to make tremendous progress, and peace talks are underway," the president said. "I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them totally innocent. It is also not our function to serve other nations as law enforcement agencies."
"These are warfighters, the best in the world, and they either want to fight to win or not fight at all," Trump continued. "We are working to finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home!"
The president called off peace negotiations with the Taliban in September after the group claimed credit for the bombing death of Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz. In the months since, U.S. and Taliban negotiators have continued to build trust, The Times reported.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department budget request, made public on Monday, asked for the lowest level of funding for Afghanistan in nearly a decade, while noting that its request for war funding "assumes a drawdown of forces," Military Times reported.
"We are cautiously optimistic about the breaking news that President Trump has conditionally approved a peace deal with the Taliban that would lead to a full withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. The administration would be wise to push this deal to completion and quickly withdraw our troops since a military presence in the country is no longer required for our safety," Dr. William Ruger, vice president of research and policy for the conservative Charles Koch Institute, told Task & Purpose.
"It is time for Afghans to own the future of that country and find a path forward to its future."
There have been 3,572 American casualties in Afghanistan, according to the website icasualties.org, which tracks U.S. and U.K. troop deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Six American troops have died in Afghanistan so far this year.
Some Fort Bragg paratroopers who left for the Middle East on a no-notice deployment last month came home Thursday.
About 3,500 soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team were sent to Kuwait beginning Jan. 1 as tensions were rising in the region. The first soldiers were in the air within 18 hours of being told to go.
KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a week long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.
Large cargo ships, small fishing boats and other watercraft sail safely past Naval Station Norfolk every day, but there's always a possibility that terrorists could use any one of them to attack the world's largest naval base.
While Navy security keeps a close eye on every vessel that passes, there's an inherent risk for the sailors aboard small patrol boats who are tasked with helping keep aircraft carriers, submarines and destroyers on base safe from waterborne attacks.
So the Navy experimented Wednesday to test whether an unmanned vessel could stop a small boat threatening the base from the Elizabeth River.
Nancy Turner's modern version of keeping a candle in the window while her soldier son is away is a string of electric lights on the front porch that burn red, white and blue.
But where Turner sees patriotism and support for the troops, her Garner homeowners association sees a covenant violation and a potential $50-per-day fine.
Turner was surprised to receive a threatening email last week after an employee from Sentry Management, which manages the Sheldon Place HOA, spotted the illegal illumination during a neighborhood patrol.
"I honestly had no idea it would be a problem," Turner said.
The HOA did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent as a message through its Facebook page.
In the wee hours of Jan. 8, Tehran retaliated over the U.S. killing of Iran's most powerful general by bombarding the al-Asad air base in Iraq.
Among the 2,000 troops stationed there was U.S. Army Specialist Kimo Keltz, who recalls hearing a missile whistling through the sky as he lay on the deck of a guard tower. The explosion lifted his body - in full armor - an inch or two off the floor.
Keltz says he thought he had escaped with little more than a mild headache. Initial assessments around the base found no serious injuries or deaths from the attack. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, "All is well!"
The next day was different.
"My head kinda felt like I got hit with a truck," Keltz told Reuters in an interview from al-Asad air base in Iraq's western Anbar desert. "My stomach was grinding."