The reduction occurred despite the sinking of peace talks with the Taliban in September. Attracting American troops to Afghanistan has been an important demand from the Taliban negotiators, and President Trump has repeatedly pledged to bring US troops from "endless wars" abroad.
In a draft peace agreement between the US and the Taliban, the Trump government agreed to reduce the number of US troops to 8,600. In the meantime, just over 1
2,000 American troops are deployed in Afghanistan.
"While we work with our partners in Afghanistan, we are always striving to optimize the armed forces," said Miller. "I am confident that we have the right skills to achieve our goals and continue to train, advise and support throughout the country."
Army Col. Sonny Leggett, a US military spokesman in Kabul, said the reduction was "a cumulative decline since General Miller's command" and not part of the retreat to 8,600 American troops.
"General Miller is doing exactly what I asked all our commanders to do when I came to office," Esper said in the news conference. "I urge them to find out where they can free up time, money and manpower," said Esper, so that the Pentagon can focus on opposing China and Russia in line with the country's national defense strategy. He said that the fight against terrorism and extremism "is also part of this priority list".
The peace talks between the United States and the Taliban have not been officially resumed, but the US Special Representative to Afghanistan met with Taliban leaders in Pakistan earlier this month. The negotiators worked more than a year to reach an agreement before it was sunk, but many officials in Kabul and Washington warn that the effort is being put on hold.
Nearly 2,400 American troops have died in Afghanistan since the US intervened in 2001, and more than 20,000 were injured, according to the Pentagon.