Trump’s NSA says thousands of US forces will remain in Afghanistan beyond Christmas

US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said Friday that 2,500 American soldiers will remain in Afghanistan beyond Christmas, dismissing US President Donald Trump’s tweet stating that all American troops in Afghanistan should be home by Christmas.

O’Brien also took a swipe at US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, who in an interview with NPR on Sunday suggested that US National Security Advisor’s announcement about the withdrawal plan from Afghanistan was ‘speculation.’

Milley said anyone “can speculate as they see fit. I am not going to engage in speculation. I’m going to engage in the rigorous analysis of the situation based on the conditions and the plans that I am aware of and my conversations with the president. And then when we get to the point where we have further discussions and further decisions, those will be appropriately made public.”

About Milley’s remarks, O’Brien said: “It has been suggested by some that that’s speculation. I can guarantee you that’s the plan of the president of the United States.”

“That’s the order of the commander-in-chief, that’s not speculation,” he noted.

O’Brien stated that It is not his practice to speculate, “Other people can interpret what I say as speculation, but…When I’m speaking, I’m speaking for the president and I think that’s what the Pentagon is moving out and doing.”

Referring to Trump’s tweet saying that US troops should be home by Christmas, the US NSA said that Trump was “expressing the same desire” of every wartime president—to get troops home by Christmas.

In February, the US-brokered a deal with the Taliban in Doha that was conditions based and included the full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Since then troop levels have reduced from 13,000 to 8,600 with a further reduction to 4,500 expected by November.