“I’m not using the 'withdraw' word right now,” Dunford said about the nearly 18-year war. "It's our judgment that the Afghans need support to deal with the level of violence" in the country today.
The U.S. and the Taliban seemed to be approaching a deal in which U.S. forces would withdraw in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not become a haven for other terrorist groups.
Some 14,000 U.S. troops have remained in Afghanistan, mainly advising and assisting Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations against the ISIS terror network’s Afghan affiliate and other extremist groups, including Al Qaeda.
Dunford said any peace agreement would be based on security conditions on the ground. He noted Afghan forces are not yet able to secure the country without help from allied forces and it wasn’t yet clear when they would be.
“We don't want Afghanistan to be a sanctuary from which the homeland can be threatened," Dunford said. "We want peace and stability for Afghan people."
U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has prioritized getting the Taliban to agree to intra-Afghan talks and a permanent cease-fire. But the Taliban have continued to sideline the Kabul government, which they've dismissed as a U.S. puppet, and have not agreed to a permanent cease-fire.
The Taliban have kept up a near-daily rate of deadly attacks, despite holding several rounds of talks with Khalilzad since his appointment almost a year ago. The Taliban control roughly half of Afghanistan and are at their strongest since their government was toppled in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. when the U.S.-led invasion toppled their government.
Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.