Cartoon by Samuel Embleton, alias “Sarcasam” when drawing for the press. Sam is an Anglo-Swiss freelance illustrator and comic strip author. His work ranges from illustration for publishing to visual communication for companies and storyboarding for clients worldwide. He is well known within the Swiss armed forces for his work with the Department of Defence.
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In December 2018, U.S. president Donald Trump directed the Pentagon to withdraw nearly half of the more than 14,000 troops deployed to Afghanistan. Moreover, at the beginning of February, Taliban official Abdul Salam Hanafi said that the U.S. has promised to implement the troop withdrawal by the end of April. However, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Rob Manning said the Defense Department had received no orders to begin packing up.
A cut to about 7,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan would likely mean the U.S. abandons much of its mission advising Afghan forces, with emphasis remaining on counterterrorism operations and securing a few military installations, such as Bagram Airfield. Many of Trump’s senior advisers and military officials have warned that this withdrawal will plunge Afghanistan further into chaos. Trump’s directive comes at an inopportune time when the U.S negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban, potentially undercutting leverage that American diplomats have. According to Ryan Crocker, who has served as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Syria, the direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban without the involvement of the Afghan government was in itself “surrendering“:
It was clear that by going to the table we were surrendering; we were just negotiating the terms of our surrender. The Taliban will offer any number of commitments, knowing that when we are gone and the Taliban is back, we will have no means of enforcing any of them. — Ryan Crocker cited in Tucker Reals, “Taliban Says US Agreed to Withdrawal Half of Forces in Afghanistan by End of April as Donald Trump Touts Peace Push in State of the Union“, CBS News, 06.02.2019.
Just before the Munich Security Conference 2019, U.S. acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan has said that any potential U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan would be “coordinated” with other NATO members. However, his statement may not correspond exactly to reality. Days later, at the Munich Security Conference 2019, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the German Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen pointed out that this withdrawal of U.S. troops has not been discussed with other allied states.