KABUL: The US has started withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, a spokesman for US Forces in Afghanistan said on Monday, exactly 10 days after the United States signed a deal with the Taliban in Doha amid looming political chaos in Kabul.
The US will cut the number of forces in the country to 8,600, according to a statement by US Forces' Afghanistan spokesman Colonel Sonny Leggett.
"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 the US media.
"USFOR-A maintains all the military means and authorities to accomplish our objectives -including conducting counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda and ISIS-K and providing support to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces," the statement read.
"USFOR-A is on track to meet directed force levels while retaining the necessary capabilities," it added.
The deal with the Taliban was aimed at bringing peace to Afghanistan after about two decades of war.
The pullout of US troops -- a part of the US-Taliban agreement -- came as Afghanistan's rival leaders, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, were each sworn in as President in separate ceremonies on Monday, creating a complication for the US as it figures out how to move forward on the agreement.
The US has not tied the withdrawal to political stability in Afghanistan or any specific outcome from the all-Afghan peace talks. Instead, it depends on the Taliban meeting its commitment to preventing "any group or individual, including al-Qaeda, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the US and its allies.