The move would reduce the number of troops from 8,600 to 4,500 and would be the lowest number since the very earliest days of the war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001.
It would pave the way for a US exit which President Donald Trump remains determined to achieve.
Yet the discussions are taking place against the backdrop of an uptick in violence from the Taliban against the Afghan government, despite the insurgent group signing an historic agreement with the US in February and as the Trump administration has appeared to hold back on its criticism of the Taliban.
While the decision is not final, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper discussed the plan with NATO allies last week and the topic was revisited in his meetings with NATO officials in Brussels Friday.
“We will also follow up on our discussion on Afghanistan. NATO will continue to adjust our presence in support of the peace process,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday alongside Esper before their meeting. “This will be done in close coordination with Allies and partners.”
Under the agreement signed with the Taliban in February, the US committed to pulling all of its troops out of Afghanistan by next April — within 14 months of its signing — if the Taliban upheld certain commitments in the agreement. The Taliban committed to preventing terrorist groups using Afghan territory to threaten the US and its allies, breaking ties with groups which threaten the US, and pursuing intra-Afghan negotiations.
As part of that deal, the US also agreed to reduce the number of troops from about 13,000 to 8,600 by early July. The US has already hit that 8,600 figure, ahead of schedule, two US officials told CNN.
It is unclear when the withdrawal of the 4,000 additional US troops, a policy decision in its final stages, will begin. US officials at the State Department and the Pentagon have reiterated that any reduction below the 8,600 mark would be “conditions based.”
“US force levels in Afghanistan remain in the mid-8,000s. Additional drawdowns beyond this number remain conditions-based according to the US Government’s assessment of the overall security environment and Taliban compliance with the US-Taliban agreement,” Pentagon spokesman Major Rob Lodewick, told CNN.
The National Security Council did not reply to a request for comment.