Confusion about troop withdrawals from America’s longest battle — an emotional subject for the troops and their households — started Oct. 7, when Trump tweeted that “we should always have the small remaining variety of our BRAVE Males and Girls serving in Afghanistan dwelling by Christmas.” When requested about these feedback, O’Brien mentioned Friday that Trump was simply expressing a hope.

“I believe what the president was doing is, he was expressing the identical need I believe each president for the reason that Revolutionary Warfare has mentioned,” O’Brien mentioned throughout an internet occasion hosted by the Aspen Institute. “Each time we’re at battle, whether or not it was the Revolutionary Warfare, the Civil Warfare, World Warfare I or World Warfare II, all presidents … need the troops dwelling by Christmas.”

As an alternative, O’Brien mentioned, “We’re on a path proper now that appears like about 4,500 this fall and a smaller quantity in January and February, but when the circumstances permitted, look we’d like to get folks out earlier.” And, echoing feedback he made final week, O’Brien mentioned, “within the early a part of subsequent yr, we’re going to be right down to 2,500 troops.”

Protection officers insist there are not any plans to have all troops dwelling from Afghanistan by the vacations or the top of the yr. U.S. officers additionally mentioned Friday that there presently is not any accepted plan to cut back the quantity to 2,500 by early subsequent yr. The officers spoke on situation of anonymity to debate inside deliberations.

Trump’s authentic tweet about Christmas alarmed Pentagon and State Division officers who worry that placing a definitive date on troop withdrawal may undercut negotiations to finalize ongoing peace negotiations between the Taliban and representatives of Afghan society, together with the present Afghan authorities. In addition they fear {that a} hasty withdrawal may drive the U.S. to depart behind delicate navy gear. They usually proceed to emphasize that the Taliban have nonetheless not met necessities to cut back violence in opposition to the Afghans, a key aspect of the U.S. withdrawal plan.

When requested concerning the tweet and plans to go to 2,500 by early subsequent yr, Milley advised Nationwide Public Radio a number of days in the past that the Pentagon had a conditions-based plan for troop withdrawal. He mentioned he wouldn’t speculate past saying that there are 5,000 to six,000 U.S. troops within the nation now and and that quantity is to be diminished to 4,500 in November.

“I believe that Robert O’Brien or anybody else can speculate as they see match,” Milley mentioned. “I’m not going to have interaction in hypothesis. I’m going to have interaction within the rigorous evaluation of the state of affairs based mostly on the circumstances and the plans that I’m conscious of and my conversations with the president.”

O’Brien grew testy when requested about Milley’s remark.

“It’s not my follow to invest,” O’Brien mentioned. “So different folks can interpret what I say as hypothesis or not, however I wasn’t speculating then. I wasn’t speculating at the moment. Once I’m talking, I’m talking for the president.”

He mentioned the variety of troops can be diminished to lower than 5,000 within the subsequent month or so, and within the early a part of subsequent yr, it’s going to drop to 2,500.

“I can assure you. … It’s not hypothesis. That’s the order of the commander in chief.”

A number of U.S. officers mentioned Friday that the Pentagon has not obtained an order to chop troops to 2,500. U.S. navy leaders have persistently mentioned that any discount under 4,500 must be based mostly on circumstances on the bottom, together with a measurable discount in assaults by the Taliban on Afghan troops. They usually say they haven’t seen that but.

America’s exit from Afghanistan after 19 years was specified by a February settlement Washington reached with the Taliban. That settlement mentioned U.S. troops can be out of Afghanistan in 18 months, supplied the Taliban honored a dedication to battle terrorist teams, with most consideration seemingly targeted on the Islamic State group’s affiliate within the nation.

U.S. officers additionally say that the U.S. has crucial categorized gear at bases in Afghanistan that must be moved out, which is able to take time. In addition they mentioned that troop withdrawals from Afghanistan have to be coordinated with different coalition allies that even have forces there.

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