20:49 GMT31 October 2020
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    White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien said on Wednesday that the pace of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan could leave as few as 2,500 troops in the Central Asian country by early 2021.

    "When President Trump took office, there were over 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan. As of today there are under 5,000, and that will go to 2,500 by early next year,” O'Brien told an audience at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

    O'Brien's comments mark the lowest definitive number given by a Trump administration official about troop number reductions in Afghanistan since US President Donald Trump's comments in early August, when he said there would be roughly 4,000 troops in Afghanistan by November, when the US presidential election is being held.

    Last month, David Helvey, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, told the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security that "if conditions warrant, per the US-Taliban agreement,” all US troops could be withdrawn from Afghanistan by May 2021.

    In February, the US signed a peace agreement with the Taliban Islamic militant group that has formed the foundation for the US withdrawal. US troops have occupied Afghanistan since October 2001, when they invaded to overthrow the Taliban, then the government in power, in retaliation for the Taliban's allowing terrorist group al-Qaeda to operate bases and training facilities in the country. The month prior, al-Qaeda had run its terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, that killed more than 3,000 people, out of the Afghan camps.

    However, the civil war in Afghanistan continues, as the Afghan government was not party to the US-Taliban deal. Negotiations have continued in Doha, Qatar, between the government and the Taliban, with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani flying to Doha earlier this week for meetings with leading diplomats.

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    Robert O'Brien, US withdrawal, Afghanistan
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