U.S. troop withdrawal begins in Afghanistan

Afghan people chant after a few rockets are fired during inauguration ceremony for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, March 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

U.S. troops have started the initial withdrawal Afghanistan called for under the U.S.-Taliban peace agreement, the U.S. military confirmed Monday.

The pullout is intended to reduce the American military presence in the country from 13,000 to 8,600 over the next four and a half months, Army Col. Sonny Leggett, spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

The peace deal was signed on Feb. 29, and it called for American forces to begin leaving within 10 days.

An intensifying dispute between President Ashraf Ghani and his rival in last September’s election, Abdullah Abdullah, threatened to complicate the way forward.

Ghani was declared the election winner, but Abdullah said the result was marred by fraud, and both were sworn in as president in separate ceremonies on Monday.

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