Exclusive: U.S. troop drawdowns in Afghanistan ‘not necessarily’ tied to Taliban deal

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LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that any future troop drawdowns in Afghanistan were “not necessarily” linked to a deal with Taliban insurgents, suggesting some lowering of force levels may happen irrespective of the ongoing peace push.

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“I feel confident that we could reduce our numbers in Afghanistan and still ensure that place doesn’t become a safe haven for terrorists who could attack the United States,” Esper said in an interview, without offering a figure.

“And our allies agree we can make reductions as well.”

Asked whether such reductions would necessarily be contingent on some sort of agreement with the Taliban insurgency, Esper said: “Not necessarily.”

(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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