The US Central Commands top general, Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, said that he cannot recommend a full withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan unless the Taliban demonstrated that they no longer support Al Qaeda forces, it was reported.
“If conditions would allow, we’re prepared to go to zero” by May, TOLO News quoted McKenzie saying in a video conference on Wednesday 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 were met by the Taliban.
McKenzie’s remarks come just weeks after news reports indicated US President Donald Trump had demanded the Pentagon draw up plans to fully withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the November 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 US 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 Qaeda.
The Taliban has regularly fought against Islamic State “terrorists” in Afghanistan, McKenzie said.
Also, a UN report indicated recently that the Taliban had not severed its vast ties to Al Qaeda and might have actually strengthened them in recent months, reports TOLO News.
Some 400 to 600 Al Qaeda fighters remain in Afghanistan, where they operate in 12 of the nation’s 34 provinces, according to the UN report.