Dec. 21 (UPI) -- After deciding this week to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, President Donald Trump may also pull thousands of soldiers from Afghanistan -- a possibility that's already drawn a response from Afghan officials.
The New York Times reported Thursday the president made the decision to cut the U.S. presence in Afghanistan at the same time he decided to withdraw all forces from Syria, which he announced Wednesday. U.S. forces have been leading a Kurdish-formed coalition to fight Islamic State militants in the war-torn nation.
The 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan do not take an active fighting role and haven't for years. Instead, they train and advise Afghan forces and help conduct counterterror missions against groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaida. One official said a pullout would make Afghanistan less reliant on Western militaries for security.
The United States has had forces in Afghanistan since launching its first offensive in the war on terror in 2001. More than 2,400 U.S. military personnel have been killed in the conflict, which officials say costs the United States about $45 billion per year. The U.S.-supported Afghan government has control of about 65 percent of the country.
U.S. and Taliban officials met this week in the United Arab Emirates to discuss peace and the continuing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghan reconciliation, led the American coalition in the talks, which were organized by Pakistan and included representatives from Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials, though, have yet to comment directly on that meeting.
Senior Afghan officials said on social media Friday the loss of U.S. troops would not harm their security efforts.
"During the past four and half years, the fight on the frontline and security of the entire nation was carried out by the same forces, and despite the overwhelming war, our national armed and air forces have strengthened day by day and they will grow in strength even more."
Ghani representative Haroon Chakhansuri supported Fazly's remarks.