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Timeline: US military presence in Afghanistan

Published: September 8, 2019
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Source: aljazeera.com

As the United States and the Taliban edged closer to reaching an agreement in a bid to bring peace in Afghanistan, the group's fighters launched a series of attacks across the country including in the capital, Kabul.

At least 100 people were killed last week in the-Taliban claimed attacks, including a US soldier which brought the number of US troops killed this year in Afghanistan to 16. A Romanian soldier was also killed.

Amid the attacks, the US envoy negotiating with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, said his team had reached an agreement "in principle" with the Taliban about the US pulling troops from five bases in Afghanistan in exchange for the group not allowing foreign fighters to use Afghanistan as a launchpad for global attacks - about 14,000 US troops and some 17,000 from 39 NATO allies and partner states are in the country in a non-combative role.

But on Sunday, US President Donald Trump made an announcement in a series of tweets, saying he "called off" the peace negotiations and "cancelled" a secret meeting with the Taliban's "major leaders" that was planned for Sunday at a presidential compound in Camp David, Maryland. Trump said he had also planned to meet Afghanistan's president.

Here is a timeline of the foreign military presence in Afghanistan since 2001 after the Taliban was toppled by the US-led invasion of that year. The war between the Taliban and the US has been raging since, with around  US troops killed

The war between the Taliban and the US has been raging since, with around 2,400 US troops and tens of thousands of Afghan troops killed. The conflict has also claimed the lives of over 50,000 Afghan civilians.

October 2001: As al-Qaeda fighters are blamed for the September 11 attacks in the US, President George W Bush announces that US and NATO troops have begun striking Afghanistan for harbouring the armed group.

November 2001: Some 1,300 US troops arrive in Afghanistan 

December 2001: The US force grows to 2,500 and the Taliban, in power since 1996, is tippled. An interim administration is established and Pashtun leader Hamid Karzai becomes its chairman.

March 2002: The number of US troops in Afghanistan increases to 7,200.

December 2002: The total number of US troops in Afghanistan reaches 9,700 as the year ends. 

April 2004: The number swells to 20,300 as the US builds up forces along the Afghan-Pakistani border and provides security for fledgling reconstruction projects.

December 2006: Attention shifts to the escalating war in Iraq; the force in Afghanistan remains just over 20,000.

December 2007: The force in Afghanistan rises to 25,000, but Iraq remains Washington's priority.

May 2009: As fighting in Afghanistan becomes more intense, the number of US troops surpasses 50,000.

December 2009: Troops now number more than 67,000, and the situation is deteriorating, with escalating violence and more service members killed. Then-US President Barack Obama orders in another 33,000 troops to battle al-Qaeda fighters and a resurgent Taliban.

August 2010: The US force reaches 100,000.

US troops' gradual drop down

May 2011: Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden is found hiding in neighbouring Pakistan and killed in a US special operations raid. There are still about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan.

June 2011: Saying the US is meeting its goals in Afghanistan, Obama announces his withdrawal plan: Bring back 10,000 troops by the end of 2011, and continue at a steady pace until handing over security responsibilities to the Afghans by 2014.

September 2012: Troop levels down to 77,000.

December 2013: Down to 46,000 troops, the slow withdrawal continues.

March 2014: With nearly 34,000 troops in Afghanistan, Obama orders the Pentagon to develop options for a complete military withdrawal because Karzai refuses to sign a security agreement with the US.

May 2014: Obama announces his plan to pull virtually all US troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2016, when his second term in office will be drawing to a close.

December 2014: Troop levels have been cut in half since Obama's announcement in May, down to 16,100. Obama declares their combat mission over, but troops will continue training and advising Afghan forces.

March 2015: Troops decline to their current number - about 9,800 - on track for a nearly total withdrawal in 2016.

October, 2015: In a reversal, Obama says the situation is too fragile for the US military to leave. He announces plans to keep the current force of about 9,800 in place through most of 2016 to continue counterterrorism missions and advise Afghans battling the Taliban. The plan is for the number to decrease to about 5,500 troops by December 2016.

July, 2016: Saying the security situation in Afghanistan "remains precarious", Obama announces that instead of dropping the US troop level to 5,500, he will keep it at about 8,400 through the end of his term on January, 2017. He said his successor can determine the next move.

August, 2017: Trump warns against a "hasty withdrawal" from Afghanistan, saying that "conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on." Weeks later, it is confirmed that additional troops will be deployed, eventually bringing the number to about 14,000.

September 2019: Khalilzad, the US envoy, announces that under a deal reached "in principle" with the group the first 5,000 US troops would withdraw within 135 days of the agreement becoming final.

September, 2019: Trump says secret meetings between him and Taliban leaders and with the Afghan president at Camp David are now cancelled, citing the death of a US service member in a Taliban attack in Kabul two days earlier.

Related Articles:

KABUL: The United States would withdraw almost 5,000 troops from Afghanistan and close five bases within 135 days under a draft peace accord agreed with the Taliban, the chief US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad said on Monday.

At least 10 people have been killed after a car bomb rocked a high-security zone east of the capital of Afghanistan, which houses the US Embassy and other diplomatic missions. The blast took place on Thursday in Shash Darak, a heavily fortified area adjacent to the Green Zone and home to several important complexes including the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan intelligence service.

President Trump wants to pull out of Afghanistan. A majority of Congress wants to end the 19 year long war. Peace talks are underway. The women of Afghanistan are bracing for a loss of freedoms possible while under American occupation. An agreement between the United States and the Taliban is in sight.

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