Mike Pompeo Says U.S. Set for Full Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan by Spring 2021

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the military is on track to completely withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by spring 2021.

Pompeo said the U.S. military is on pace to uphold a February 29 agreement with the Taliban that aims to reduce American troops in the country to zero by April or May of 2021, according to interviews with Breitbart News. The secretary of state's remarks come after his peace talk meetings this past week in Doha, Qatar, alongside Afghanistan government officials and the Taliban. Pompeo said President Donald Trump's main objective is to "stop getting people killed there" nearly two decades after U.S. troops first arrived in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The talks in Qatar this past week had been slightly delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and controversial prisoner swaps. But Pompeo insisted the complete U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan—the longest war in American history—is still on track for spring 2021.

"Nineteen years after 9/11, we finally have the Afghans prepared to sit down and have a serious conversation about taking their country forward without all the violence," Pompeo told Breitbart News. "President Trump laid out two objectives: One, reduce the American footprint there and get our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines—get everybody home. Stop getting people killed there. Get the maximum extent feasible."

"Second, we're going to have to make sure we protect the homeland. I think we're, today, on our way to putting America in a place where we can do both of those things," Pompeo continued, adding he still believes there may be "significant bumps in the road."

Trump recently suggested that U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan could be halved by Election Day on November 3, reiterating his belief that wars in the Middle East are "the single biggest mistake in the history of our country." U.S. troops in Afghanistan were reduced by about 3,000 personnel this year, bringing the current total to about 8,500 troops still stationed across Afghanistan—about the same number as when Trump took office.

"We're going down to 4,000, we're negotiating right now," Trump told Axios last month. "I don't want to tell you [when]. But I've always said we will get largely out."

Pompeo said the biggest challenge of a post-troop Afghanistan is ensuring their is equal power sharing between current government officials, the Taliban—and no sheltering of Al-Qaeda or other militant groups. He noted that his conversations with Taliban co-founder and lead negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar have him "convinced" there is a feasible "solution" to settling decades of differences.

"In the end, the central challenge is what will the Afghan government look like. This is a challenge anytime you have throughout history insurgencies and other times when nations have civil strife. We took Al-Qaeda out, and the Taliban still have weapons and the capacity to inflict damage," the secretary of state said. "We made clear to them when I met with them today—the Taliban—that they have an obligation to reduce violence immediately and significantly so these negotiations can proceed. So there will be issues of power sharing and how the government is established at the center of the conversation."

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. State Department for additional remarks Monday morning.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the military is on track to completely withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by spring 2021. KARIM JAAFAR / Contributor/Getty Images