In an interview with CBS's 'Face the Nation', Gates, who served in the post between 2006 to 2011 in the Barack Obama administration, said that the Donald Trump administration should be completely assured that the Afghan government is stable before the US pulls out the 12,000 soldiers from the war-torn country.
"I think that the circumstances under which you bring them home matter. And I think trying to give the Afghan government the best possible shot at survival is really important for the future of Afghanistan," The Hill quoted Gates as saying, citing CBS.
He warned that a premature withdrawal of US troops could lead to potentially grave consequences, including risks to women's rights in Afghanistan.
The US has been leading efforts to pressurise the Taliban to lay down their arms and end the nearly two-decades-long civil war in Afghanistan. Both sides have participated in several rounds of meeting in Qatar in an effort to chalk out a peace agreement.
During his State of the Union address on February 5, Trump had advocated a "progress" in negotiations, saying that "it means we will be able to reduce our troop presence and focus on counter-terrorism."
However, the Taliban does not consider the withdrawal being dependent on the American conditions for a ceasefire or direct talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, signalling that Washington's demands may be far-fetched.
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