Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he wants to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan "with or without" a peace agreement in order to give higher priority to strategic competition with China, APA reports citing Al Jazeera.
The Trump administration is expected to announce plans to withdraw about 4,000 troops from Afghanistan, according to US media, after peace talks resumed a week ago between the US and the Taliban.
Esper told reporters on Monday that Austin Miller, the head of the NATO mission and US Forces Afghanistan "is confident that he can go down to a lower number" of troops.
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Miller "believes he can conduct all the important counter-terrorism missions and train, advise and assist" the Afghan army, Esper said on a plane as he flew back from Belgium, where he attended the 75th anniversary of WWII's Battle of the Bulge.
"I would like to go to a lower number because I want to either bring those troops home" to retrain for new missions or to "be redeployed to the Indo-Pacific to face off our greatest challenge in terms of the great power competition - that's vis-a-vis China", he said.
"At the end of the day, the best solution for Afghanistan is a political agreement" between the government and the Taliban, Esper added.
"But I think we can go down [in troop numbers] with or without that political agreement."