Afghan president sends letter to Trump on troop presence

/ CBS News

Skepticism about U.S.-Taliban peace talks

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has sent a letter to President Trump that outlines potential cost reductions for U.S. engagement in Afghanistan. The letter also calls for a full review of the partnership, including the possibility of a troop drawdown, a senior Afghan official confirms to CBS News' "Face the Nation" host Margaret Brennan.

The letter does not advocate for a troop drawdown, as Mr. Trump has supported. The Pentagon has been ordered to start planning a major drawdown of roughly 7,000 troops in Afghanistan, about half of the roughly 14,000 troops who have been deployed there, CBS News' David Martin reported in December.

Mr. Trump campaigned on getting out of the Middle East. The president has insisted it's time to stop fighting wars overseas, and start spending that money on infrastructure and other domestic needs in the United States. The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan began in October 2001, meaning children born after the war began can now enlist to serve.

The letter comes as the Republican-controlled Senate delivered a harsh and rare rebuke to the president's foreign policy approach. Lawmakers approved an amendment asserting that a swift withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan could jeopardize progress there and give terrorist groups the potential to expand in the regions.

The president has, at times, made confusing statements revealing his understanding of the region. Earlier this month in a Cabinet meeting, the president defended the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, a remark that perplexed and concerned some critics.

"Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia, because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan," Mr. Trump said. "The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia. They were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. And literally they went bankrupt; they went into being called Russia again, as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, a lot of these places you're reading about now are no longer part of Russia, because of Afghanistan."

The Soviet Union — which comprised not only Russia, but several other now-independent nations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia — invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and left in 1989. However, contrary to Mr. Trump's claims, Russia was in Afghanistan to spread communism, not fight terrorists. And in the process, Soviet forces waged a brutal campaign that often targeted civilians.

First published on February 1, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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