The Pentagon has plans for an abrupt withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan in case President Donald Trump surprises military leaders by ordering an immediate drawdown as he did in Syria, three current and former defense officials said. U.S. military officials expect the president still to order the withdrawal of at least several thousand U.S. troops by the end of this year, leaving almost 9,000 U.S. troops there. U.S. military officials say they can continue counterterror and training missions with a scaled-back force of that size. The officials stressed that the president has not made a final decision on how many troops to withdraw this year.
[October 21 2019 U.S. down 2K, Pelosi arrives ]
Gen. Austin Miller, the commanding officer of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said October 21 2019 that the U.S. has about 12,000 troops remaining in Afghanistan, a reduction of 2,000.
[October 7 2019 Abdul Rashid Baluch released by U.S. negotiator ]
Taliban commanders held in the high-security prison at Bagram, Afghanistan have been released after the Taliban were said to have met the US peace envoy.
Abdul Rashid Baluch was previously listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the US Treasury Department. He was accused of deploying suicide bombers and helping finance the Taliban through the drugs trade in Afghanistan. Several senior Taliban members were also released in exchange for three kidnapped Indian engineers
Rashid is a senior Taliban member who was actively involved in Taliban operations in southwestern Afghanistan before his July 2014 arrest by Afghan security forces in southern Nimruz Province. Rashid served in leadership, logistical, and financial support roles for the group since at least 2007 and was the Taliban’s Provincial Shadow Governor of Nimruz Province, Afghanistan, from early 2008 until late 2012. As of mid-2013, Rashid served as a Taliban liaison officer to al-Qa’ida (AQ) and was responsible for planning meetings between Taliban senior leadership and AQ members in Karachi, Pakistan.
Operational and financing activities for the Taliban
As a senior Taliban member, Rashid was involved in operational and financial activities for the Taliban. In mid-2013, Rashid ordered the emplacement of an improvised explosive device (IED) in Nimruz Province which resulted in an explosion that killed one U.S. soldier. Additionally, Rashid transported IEDs to Afghanistan that were used by the Taliban to target Coalition Forces. As of early 2008, Rashid and a Taliban associate facilitated the movement of three suicide bombers for attacks in Nimruz Province. He has also played a role in the deployment of suicide bombers to conduct vehicle-borne IED attacks on senior Afghan government officials and non-governmental organization workers.
As of early 2014, Rashid provided $6,000 to $8,000 worth of Pakistani rupees each month to a subordinate Taliban commander for operational use in the Khash Rud region of Nimruz Province, Afghanistan.
On behalf of the Taliban, Rashid has also been involved in multiple narcotics-related financial activities, which included delivering funds collected from narcotics traffickers to Taliban commanders. As of mid-2014, Rashid collected payments for the coordination of Taliban protective escorts for narcotics shipments and disbursed payments to Taliban subordinates. As of early 2013, Rashid directed a Taliban associate on the disbursement of profits from a narcotics sale. As of late 2008, Rashid and U.S.- and UN- designated Mohammad Naim Barich agreed to share all profits the Taliban received from narcotics trade and commercial fuel convoy taxation in two districts in southwestern Afghanistan to support Taliban operations.