“We will drop to less than 5,000 by the end of November,” Esper said in an interview with Fox News.
The Pentagon will still need to brief members of Congress about the plan, the Esper said, and also need to ensure that “the United States is not threatened by terrorists coming out of Afghanistan.”
In an interview with Axios last week, President Donald Trump said he wanted “maybe 4,000 to 5,000 troops” in Afghanistan by the time of the November 3 election.
The Esper’s confirmation of a major troop withdrawal comes amid the ongoing deadly attacks on the Afghan government by the Taliban, despite the rebel group signing a deal with the US in February.
Despite the lack of progress, on Thursday, a Pentagon spokesman affirmed that while the President’s instructions are clear, any future reductions will be “conditions based”.