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The Secretary of Defense sent a confidential memo on Afghanistan to the White House before being fired

A senior US official familiar with the discussion said that after consulting with senior military officers, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper sent a confidential memo to the White House this month expressing concerns about further production cuts. . Esper wrote that local conditions are not yet correct, on the grounds that continued violent conflicts, if quickly withdrawn, may pose a danger to the remaining forces, potential damage to the alliance, and concerns about weakening negotiations.

A few days after Trump lost his re-election, he fired Esper. Trump refused to recognize the election and since then allowed the removal of other senior political appointments in Esper and the appointment of several staunch supporters as president.

The Trump administration’s deliberation of Afghanistan in the days of decline was based on interviews with 21

current and former US and Afghan officials, many of whom were anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue. A few months ago, Trump’s relationship with Esper deteriorated on several issues, but in the president’s orbit, there were some issues that indicated Trump’s belief in the military’s deep-rooted resistance to his targets. The frustration worked. Others deny that Esper’s position on Afghanistan is related to this.

At the time of the Pentagon’s turmoil, people are deeply uncertain about how the time between now and January 20th will play out. Although some Republicans congratulated former Vice President Joe Biden on his victory, Trump administration officials have indicated that they will fight for retention.

At the same time, Trump has little time to fulfill his usual desire to end the longest 19-year war in American history.

This situation highlights the long-standing differences between the isolationist factions of the Trump administration and more traditional conservatives, and has sparked speculation that Trump loyalists in the Pentagon may try to force themselves through change.

Colin Jackson, who served as a senior Pentagon official in charge of Afghanistan in the early days of the Trump administration, advocated an immediate withdrawal.

He said: “We don’t have an example that can solve the problem well-Vietnam, Iraq.” “Not one.”

A former senior White House official stated that it is impossible for the United States to withdraw all its troops “without crushing the alliance there.”

The official said: “We may drop to 4,500,”. “But we cannot be zero.”

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who advocates a rapid and complete withdrawal, joined the debate on Wednesday.

“Remind those who say that the withdrawal may have a’conflict’ with the general/Pentagon: There is only one commander in chief, @realDonaldTrump. When he ordered the troops to leave Afghanistan, the only correct answer was’yes, sir’,” he tweeted .

New appointments include Christopher Miller (Christopher Miller), who passed several senior Pentagon administrative officials to become the acting secretary of defense; Trump ally Rep. Devin Nunis (R-Calif.)’s former aide Kash Patel (Kash Patel); retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor (Douglas Macgregor) often called for an end to the war in Afghanistan.

Both Miller (recently the head of the National Counter-Terrorism Center) and Patel (Patel) have worked with national security adviser Robert O’Brien (Robert O’Brien) for a long time, Robert O’Brien ( Robert O’Brien has publicly expressed his opposition to Gen. Mark A. Milley, President of the United Emirates of the United States of America in recent weeks. Staff, about the content of the government plan.

In a speech last month, O’Brien announced at an event in Las Vegas that the United States would “drop to 2,500” in Afghanistan early next year.

In an interview with NPR, Millley denied that these remarks were “guessing” and said that the United States wanted to “responsibly” and “deliberately” end the war.

O’Brien then doubled. He said: “When I speak, I am speaking for the president, and I think this is what the Pentagon is doing.”

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Russ Hoffman said in a statement on Friday that Miller is working with Trump and the entire national security team “to achieve our strategic goals in Afghanistan.” Hoffman added that during the phone call and meeting with NATO partners this week, Miller “assured them of our progress in Afghanistan.”

A former senior government official who meets with the president from time to time said he thinks Trump may order a reduction to 2,500. The official questioned this wisdom, saying it had given up “leverage in peace negotiations.”

Miller has not yet commented on the possible drawdown, but others in the government believe that Miller may be reduced to more than 4,500.

NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said in an e-mail that on Friday, he had a conversation with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on issues including Afghanistan.

Lungescu said: “We have been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years, and no NATO ally is willing to stay longer than necessary.” “At the same time, we want to preserve the results of this sacrifice and ensure that Afghanistan It will never become a safe haven for terrorists to attack the United States or any NATO allies.”

Partner countries have made it clear to the Trump administration that they will not and will not stay in Afghanistan if the United States withdraws its troops completely, but Miller told them that the policy has not changed and it will not be surprised.

An Afghan official said that the Afghan government has not yet been informed of changes in the timetable for the withdrawal of the United States. President Ashraf Ghani’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the US Forces in Afghanistan referred the issue to the Pentagon.

With the surge in violence in Afghanistan, it is possible to evacuate quickly. The government’s latest monitoring report points out that attacks by the Taliban and other anti-government organizations have recently soared by 50%. In the worst-hit areas, local officials warned that if the withdrawal timetable is accelerated, government forces may not be able to defend themselves.

Member of Parliament, Sher Mahmad Akhunzada, referring to the provincial capital of Helmand Province, said: “If there were no U.S. air strikes, the Taliban would be in Rashkaga today.”

A US official said that the time frame associated with a possible withdrawal decision will inform the logistics of the procedure, and it is “much more dangerous than a fully planned and well executed withdrawal.”

The official said that although there are “signs” that the Taliban have ordered their fighters not to attack American personnel, this may not be true during the final withdrawal. The official said that with the rapid airlift and ground movement of U.S. personnel to prepare for their departure, and the remaining facilities are increasingly scarce, “safe and rapid evacuation will be more difficult.”

Emergency evacuation can also mean leaving valuable equipment behind. Some large hardware containing sensitive technology, such as the UH-60 Blackhawk, can be installed on the back of the cargo plane. But other sensitive items will need to be destroyed.

Edward Dorman is a retired major general who served as the logistics director of the U.S. Central Command from 2016 to 2018. He said that if the U.S. is authorized to evacuate, as long as officials are approved, certain bases in the United States may The facility may be handed over to the Afghan army. They are confident that they will be maintained and will not lose to the Taliban.

Even if a handover does occur, it will take a lot of steps to prepare. Bases that have not yet been handed over to the Afghan army will need to be dismantled, and either way, environmental restoration may be required.

Biden has not directly resolved the US Taliban agreement signed in February, which has led to the partial withdrawal of troops. But he said he plans to reduce the number of troops to “a few thousand” to ensure that al Qaeda and ISIS do not launch attacks on the United States.

Michele Flournoy, a former senior official of the Pentagon, who is regarded as the main candidate for the Secretary of Defense under Biden’s leadership, said that the “sudden” withdrawal would undermine the peace, at least until a comprehensive agreement between the Taliban The counter-terrorism forces should stay in Afghanistan. The Afghan government is in place.

The agreement between the United States and the Taliban promises that if its conditions (including Taliban negotiations with the Afghan government and reduction of violence) are met, the United States will fully withdraw its troops by the end of April. It does not have any provisions regarding the remaining US counterterrorism forces.

When asked whether Biden plans to proceed with the transaction, a spokesperson for withdrawals and peace talks ambassador Khalilzad Biden, the current U.S. envoy, said on Friday that “President-elect Biden has laid a broad diplomatic agenda. The movement and appearance process of the company hope to be delivered at one time in the office.”

The spokesperson does not have the right to speak in the news media. He said he would not provide more details at this time. He said that Biden “firmly believes in the principle that when he prepares to govern, he can only guide one president at a time to guide our country’s foreign policy and national security.”

Ellen Nakashima, Greg Jaffe, Josh Dawsey and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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