Feb 15, 2019 07:41 Asia/Tehran [Updated: Aug 31, 2019 10:59 Asia/Tehran]

US acting Defense Secretary said Washington will not pull troops from Afghanistan without consulting its allies.

Iran Press/Asia: There" will be no unilateral troop reduction,” Patrick Shanahan told reporters in Brussels on Thursday after meeting with NATO defense chiefs. 

Shanahan said the US-led military alliance would work with NATO members to increase what he called diplomatic leverage over the Taliban militant group as the West seeks a political settlement, Reuters reported.

US European Command head and Supreme Allied Commander of the NATO alliance, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, told reporters he has not been given orders for a troop withdrawal or reduction.

"I don’t have the direction to do it, or the guidance to do it, or the decision to drive it,” Scaparrotti said.

Frustrated with America’s longest war, US President Donald Trump said he wants a reduction in the approximately 14,000 US troops currently in Afghanistan. Some 8,000 troops from other NATO countries are stationed in Afghanistan.

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Shanahan, who visited Iraq and Afghanistan last week has stressed that the White House has issued no official order to draw down troops.

The US administration’s plans to reduce its forces in Afghanistan were bolstered last month, when the United States and the Taliban agreed on a draft framework that laid out a possible withdrawal of US forces from the country.

US officials have held several rounds of talks with the Taliban in Qatar since last year, However, the discussions have so far excluded the Afghan government itself.

The Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end with a US-led invasion in 2001; but 17 years on, the militant group continues to be active on much of Afghan soil.

Currently, Kabul only controls 55 percent of the country’s territory, while the militants have a grip on 12 percent of Afghan soil, according to a report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction published in October last year. About a third of the country remains contested.

The ISIS terrorist group has also used the mayhem in Afghanistan to establish a foothold there. 101/205

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