The United States announces the beginning of withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan

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US troops have started to leave Afghanistan for the initial troop withdrawal required in the US-Taliban agreement, a spokesman for US Forces in Afghanistan announced on Monday, according to U.S. media reports

The Associated Press (AP) reports that Army Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement on Monday that the U.S. is moving ahead with plans to cut the number of forces in the country from about 13,000 to 8,600 over the next four and a half months.

"In accordance with the US-Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Joint Declaration and the US-Taliban Agreement, US Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) has begun its conditions-based reduction of forces to 8,600 over 135 days," Leggett said in the statement quoted by CNN.

Under the peace agreement, the U.S. troop withdrawal had to begin within 10 days after the deal was signed on February 29, according to AP.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper reportedly said on March 2 that he had already approved the start of the withdrawal, which would then be coordinated by military commanders in Afghanistan.

If the Taliban meet the conditions of the agreement, the remaining US troops are supposed to depart within 14 months.

The pullout comes as Afghanistan’s rival leaders were each sworn in as president in separate ceremonies Monday, creating a complication for the United States as it figures out how to move forward on the deal and end the 18-year war.

Source: Asia plus