By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — U.S. President Donald Trump is in the “process of evaluating” whether to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan, said Vice President Mike Pence.
Pence’s remarks came amid reports that Trump had ordered the Pentagon to prepare for the withdrawal of 7,000 American troops deployed in Afghanistan, about half of the U.S. contingent in the country.
“Well, the president is in the process of evaluating that, as we speak,” Pence told Fox News during an interview broadcast on January 3.
His remarks came a day after Trump urged other countries, specifically Russia, Pakistan, and India, to become more involved in the fighting in Afghanistan as he argued against continued long-term presence of U.S. troops in the war-torn country.
“Why isn’t Russia there? Why isn’t India there? Why isn’t Pakistan there?” Trump said in televised comments to reporters during a cabinet meeting on January 2. “Why are we there and we’re 6,000 miles away?”
Many observers have warned that the partial withdrawal could further degrade security and jeopardize possible peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending its 17-year insurgency.
U.S. forces make up the bulk of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission that is training and advising Afghan security forces in their fight against the Taliban and Islamic State (IS) militants.
The U.S. military also has some 7,000 troops deployed in a separate U.S. counterterrorism mission.
Pence also said the U.S. military withdrawal from Syria will be conducted in an “orderly fashion.”
He backed Trump’s planned pullout of some 2,000 American troops from Syria, saying the “reality is [that] we have defeated” the Islamic State extremist group.
But Pence said the United States was not “giving up on the fight” against IS militants and Washington was “going to continue to lean into the fight.”