The Trump administration is preparing to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan as part of an initial agreement with the Taliban, The Washington Post reports, citing U.S. officials. The Taliban would reportedly have to start negotiating a peace deal directly with the Afghan government, renounce al-Qaeda, and agree to a cease-fire as part of a deal that could reduce the 14,000 U.S. troops on the ground to between 8,000 and 9,000. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid declined to comment on the deal’s likelihood, but said “things look promising” and a “breakthrough” could happen. The group has refused to speak with the Afghan government, which it calls “a puppet regime,” until the government can strike a compromise with the U.S. about its military presence in the country.
A spokesman for Army Gen. Austin Miller, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, declined to comment. Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said the Defense Department has not been ordered to withdraw troops, and said troops would remain as long as necessary to “safeguard U.S. interests.” News of the potential deal comes after two U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan on Monday.