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Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan stands behind strong NATO

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Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan stands behind strong NATO
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Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan sought to reassure nervous NATO allies on Thursday that any potential U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will be done in a coordinated fashion, which could calm European concern about a precipitous drawdown.

U.S. officials have held several rounds of talks with the Taliban in Qatar since last year, in what is widely seen as the most serious bid for peace in the 17-year war.

Both the hardline Islamist movement and the United States hailed progress after the end of the last round of negotiations last month, although Western diplomats familiar with discussions say that many tough hurdles lie ahead.

Shanahan said he told his NATO counterparts that the U.S.-led alliance would work together to increase what he called diplomatic leverage over the Taliban as the West seeks a political settlement.

"There will be no unilateral troop reduction, it will be coordinated," Shanahan told reporters following his first meeting of NATO defence ministers after his predecessor quit in December. "We came out of here much stronger and coordinated."

In his State of the Union address last week, President Donald Trump said progress in negotiations with the Taliban would allow a reduction in the approximately 14,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan and a renewed focus on counter-terrorism.