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1st ID soldiers in Afghanistan 'maintaining readiness' amid troop withdrawals

By SAVANNAH RATTANAVONG | The Manhattan Mercury | Published: March 11, 2020

FORT RILEY (Tribune News Service_ — As the U.S. military begins pulling troops from Afghanistan because of a recent peace agreement with the Taliban, 1st Infantry Division officials at Fort Riley said Tuesday they have not received orders modifying the deployment schedule of its soldiers.

The deal, signed on Feb. 29 after more than a year of negotiations, outlined a timeline for withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, a country with which the U.S. has been embroiled in war since 2001.

It’s seen as a hopeful end to an 18-year war, but the next steps rely on Taliban and Afghanistan leaders to create a plan for the country’s future. The deal is already facing obstacles with political rivals, President Ashraf Ghani and his former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, being sworn in Monday as president in separate ceremonies.

There are about 13,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and under the current plan, they will leave within 14 months. The number of forces will be reduced to about 8,600 over the course of the next four and a half months, should it hold.

Approximately 90 of the total soldiers are from Fort Riley, supporting allies with counterterrorism and military efforts in the region.

Lt. Col. Terence Kelley, director of public affairs for the 1st Infantry Division, said its soldiers will continue with their training and duties, responding wherever and whenever needed. He said he could not comment on how this deal may affect future missions or operations in the region as that decision would largely come from the U.S. Department of the Army or the U.S. Central Command.

“For us, at our level, we’re really just focused on maintaining readiness and making sure our troops and our units are prepared to execute whatever mission they’re assigned,” Kelley said.

The agreement is not a final peace deal and depends on the Taliban holding its end to prevent “any group or individual, including al-Qaida, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.”

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