The file photo shows US service members walking off a helicopter on the runway at Camp Bost in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
The United Statesí top military official says any further drawdown in the number of US troops in Afghanistan depends on a reduction in violence as well as other conditions stipulated in an agreement with the Taliban.
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said in an interview with the National Public Radio (NPR) on Monday that pulling out the final 4,500 troops from Afghanistan has been conditioned on the Taliban reducing attacks and advancing peace talks with the Afghan government in Kabul.
"The whole agreement and all of the drawdown plans are conditions-based," Milley said, referring to the deal with the Taliban. "The key here is that weíre trying to end a war responsibly, deliberately, and to do it on terms that guarantee the safety of the US vital national security interests that are at stake in Afghanistan."
Milley added that US troop levels had already dropped from 12,000 after the February deal, which required negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul and a sharp reduction in violence.
"Thatís always been the agreement. That was the decision of the president on a conditions-based withdrawal," the top general said, adding that any future drawdowns "will be determined by the president."
Milleyís remarks came five days after US President Donald Trump tweeted his pledge to have all American forces back "by Charismas." Trumpís National Security Advisor Robert OíBrien had also said earlier that the number of US troops would be cut to 2,500 early next year.
The US reached the agreement with the Taliban in February, after almost two decades of fighting the militants in Afghanistan.
Under the deal with Washington, the Taliban agreed to stop their attacks on US-led foreign forces in return for the US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and a prisoner swap with the government.
The Afghan government was a party neither to the negotiations nor to the deal, but it has been acting in accordance with its terms, including by agreeing to free Taliban prisoners.
Fighting has continued despite several rounds of peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government in the Qatari capital of Doha over the past month.
Official data, however, shows that Taliban bombings and other assaults have increased 70 percent since the militant group signed a deal with Washington.