U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden says if he is elected he will maintain a small troop presence in Afghanistan and Iraq to help battle terrorism in the war-ravaged countries.
Biden said he supports a reduction of troops in the country, "but here’s the problem: We still have to worry about terrorism and [the Islamic State]."
Biden was speaking in a phone interview with Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military newspaper, published on September 10. The newspaper said it has also requested an interview with President Donald Trump.
"I think we need special ops capacity to coordinate with our allies," Biden told the newspaper, adding that he envisioned 1,500 to 2,000 troops as the maximum number. He did not list the specific numbers for each country or for those in neighboring Syria, where U.S. troops are also deployed.
Biden added, though, that the military should not interfere in the political affairs of the countries where troops are deployed and should coordinate with allies to train and lead to “take out terrorist groups who are going to continue to emerge.”
The Pentagon earlier this week said that U.S. troops in Iraq would be reduced from just over 5,000 to about 3,000 this month.
Trump has said he will cut the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 8,000 to 4,000-5,000 by Election Day on November 3.
Biden also said he does not plan to slash the U.S. defense budget in the face of potential threats from countries such as Russia and China.
Trump has said repeatedly that he wants to end America's longest war, which began in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.
Long-delayed peace talks between Taliban and Afghan government negotiators are set to kick off in Qatar on September 12.
The negotiations are part of a landmark deal signed between the United States and the Taliban in February.
Talks were initially supposed to start the following month but were delayed as the Taliban and the Afghan government completed a prisoner exchange.
Under the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February, international forces should withdraw from Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the militant group, which pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Afghan government.
With reporting by Stars and Stripes and RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan