President Donald Trump on Tuesday renewed his desire for a full military withdrawal from Afghanistan but added that he had not set a target date, amid speculation he might make ending the United States’s longest war part of his re-election campaign.
“We’re there 19 years and, yeah, I think that’s enough … We can always go back if we want to,” Trump told a White House news conference.
Asked if the Thanksgiving holiday on November 26 was a target, Trump said: “No. I have no target. But as soon as (is) reasonable. Over a period of time but as soon as reasonable.”
The US has already begun to withdraw its forces as part of an agreement signed with the Taliban armed group in the Qatari capital Doha on February 29. By the second quarter of 2021, all foreign forces are supposed to withdraw, ending the US’s longest war.
The Taliban launched an armed rebellion after it was toppled from power by a US-led invasion in 2001.
Trump’s comments come as authorities in Afghanistan said they had released about 900 Taliban prisoners across the country on Tuesday, approximately 600 of them from the notorious Bagram jail near Kabul.
The release is a part of a pledge by the Afghan government to free up to 2,000 of the armed group’s prisoners in response to the Taliban’s three-day ceasefire offer, which began on Sunday to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
On Tuesday, the Afghan government urged the Taliban to extend the ceasefire – only the second in nearly 19 years of war – which has mostly held across Afghanistan, providing a rare respite from the conflict’s grinding violence.