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Trump administration is weighing Afghan troop withdrawal

Courtney Kube, Carol E. Lee and Josh Lederman
U.S. service members walk off a helicopter on the runway at Camp Bost in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Getty Images

The White House has ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, two defense officials and a person briefed on the matter told NBC News.

The plans are due shortly after the new year, according to the officials. They cautioned that no decision has been made, but President Trump wants to see options.

The White House has asked the Pentagon to look into multiple options, including a complete withdrawal, the officials said.

An Afghan official told NBC News that Trump is considering a substantial drawdown of U.S. troops in the country.

The officials described the Afghanistan request a day after the Trump administration said it was pulling all U.S. forces out of Syria.

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The U.S. has approximately 14,000 troops in Afghanistan. Trump has repeatedly expressed his impatience with the 17-year-old war.

NBC News reported in July that Trump's stance prompted U.S. diplomats and commanders to gamble on a bid to kick-start peace negotiations, including holding direct talks with the Taliban.

The U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been reaching out to top Taliban leaders in a bid to launch peace negotiations to end the war before Trump decided to order U.S. troops out of the country, two foreign diplomats told NBC News in late November.

The Trump administration has also sought to force the Taliban to the negotiating table with a massive bombing campaign. The number of U.S. bombs dropped on Afghanistan hit a record high in 2018, with more than 5,200 as of September 30.