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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.

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3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

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Mayors see cryptocurrency as a way to address income inequality

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors' meeting in D.C. this week, there's buzz around the idea of giving cryptocurrency accounts to low-income people.

Why it matters: Cities have been experimenting with newfangled ways to address income inequality — like guaranteed income programs — and the latest wave of trials could involve paying benefits or dividends in bitcoin, stablecoin or other digital currencies.

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Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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