A member of the Afghan security forces at the site of a suicide bomb attack that killed at least 10 in Kabul, on Nov. 29. Photo: Noorullah Shirzada/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump reportedly intends to withdraw nearly half of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan. Given repeated U.S. failures to eradicate the Taliban over the past 17 years, and at the expense of U.S. lives lost and billions spent, bringing troops home has its merits.

Yes, but: Withdrawing 7,000 troops also poses a major risk. In recent months, Washington has been trying to help launch a peace process between Kabul and the Taliban, and the timing of the announcement, along with the speed of the withdrawal’s implementation, could jeopardize its success.

Trump’s decision comes just days after senior U.S. officials met in Dubai with top representatives from the Taliban’s political office in Qatar and its Pakistan-based senior leadership. The insurgents would now enter any formal peace talks from a position of deep strength, because they’ve gotten the withdrawals they’ve always wanted without having to give up anything in return.

Trump also reportedly intends to remove 7,000 troops within just a few months. Withdrawing so many personnel and all their associated equipment and other resources is safer and more efficient if staged through a more gradual process.

The bottom line: To be sure, withdrawing 7,000 troops isn’t catastrophic. Seven thousand U.S. soldiers and 8,000 NATO troops will remain. U.S. financial support for Afghan security forces — essential to keeping them from falling apart — will presumably continue to flow. But Trump's decision will still deal a big psychological blow to beleaguered Afghan forces, embolden Taliban fighters, and potentially result in higher levels of violence in a nation already suffering extensive destabilization.

Michael Kugelman is deputy director and senior associate for South Asia at the Wilson Center.

Go deeper

Updated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: The swing states where the pandemic is raging — Pence no longer expected to attend Barrett confirmation vote after COVID exposure.
  2. Health: 13 states set single-day case records last week
  3. Business: Where stimulus is needed most.
  4. Education: The dangerous instability of school re-openings.
  5. States: Nearly two dozen Minnesota COVID cases traced to 3 Trump campaign events
  6. World: Unrest in Italy as restrictions grow across Europe.
  7. Media: Fox News president and several hosts advised to quarantine.
Updated 22 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans and Dems react to Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation

President Trump stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett after she took the constitutional oath to serve as a Supreme Court justice during a White House ceremony Monday night .Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

President Trump said Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court and her subsequent taking of the constitutional oath Monday was a "momentous day," as she she vowed to serve "without any fear or favour."

Of note: As Republicans applauded the action, Democratic leaders warned of consequences to the rush to replace the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a conservative so close to the election, as progressives led calls to expand the court.

Hurricane Zeta makes landfall in Mexico ahead of expected arrival in U.S.

Hurricane Zeta's forecast path. Photo: National Hurricane Center

Hurricane Zeta made landfall on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 1 storm late Monday packing maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, per the National Hurricane Center.

The state of play: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) declared a state of emergency Monday as Zeta strengthened into a hurricane earlier Monday.