The Pentagon announced that it would Reducing forces In Afghanistan and Iraq to their lowest levels since the first days of the war in the two countries, the withdrawal will end before Joe Biden took the oath as President of the United States.
The troop withdrawal, announced by Donald Trump’s newly appointed acting secretary of defense, was ordered by the outgoing president despite opposition from some defense officials, who said the instability in Afghanistan Make this retraction unwise.
The Trump administration has already reduced US troop levels in Afghanistan from 14,000 last year to 4,500, in response to Trump’s pledge to end the “endless wars” of his predecessors. The new move will reduce force levels to 2,500 in both Iraq and Afghanistan. There are currently 3,000 US troops in Iraq.
Although Mr. Trump has long called for the withdrawal of forces in the region, the manner and timing of the regime has caused panic in Washington’s foreign policy circles.
Two people familiar with the discussions told the “Financial Times” that the White House may order a withdrawal of troops from Somalia as well. A defense official said the announcement may be possible by the end of the week.
The withdrawal in Iraq and Afghanistan is scheduled to be completed by January 15, just five days before Biden’s inauguration. This was announced by Chris Miller, the Acting Secretary of Defense, who replaced him Mark Esper Just last week in prof Pentagon The change that led to the installation of many Trump loyalists in influential senior positions.
Mr. Miller, a veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and IraqHe welcomed the decision and praised Mr. Trump’s “bold leadership”, saying the United States wanted to end “this generational war.”
Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser, said the president hopes that all remaining troops will be home by May, when Biden takes office.
The United States sent troops to Afghanistan in 2003 in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001. The number of troops exceeded 100,000 after Barack Obama ordered a “surge”, which Biden – then US Vice President – opposed.
Biden also promised to put an end to what he called “endless” US wars, although he is expected to support a slower rate of cut when he takes office in January.
Miller said he had already spoken to prominent congressional leaders as well as allies and partners overseas about the resolution earlier on Monday. But some top Republicans and allies also opposed the move, saying the conditions did not allow it yet.
Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, criticized the matter as a “mistake”, arguing that the cuts would undermine US peace negotiations with the Taliban.
Even so, the oldest Democrat on that House committee supported Mr Trump’s decision.
“After speaking with the Acting Secretary this morning, I think reducing our advanced deployment in Afghanistan to 2,500 soldiers is the right policy decision,” said Adam Smith, Democratic Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, arguing that it is up to Afghans to find a sustainable path to peace.
But he added that it should be implemented “responsibly and cautiously.”
Minutes after announcing the troop reduction, four missiles fell on the Green Zone in Baghdad, the protected pocket in the Iraqi capital that houses the US embassy. The Iraqi army said that three others were killed in the vicinity, killing a girl and wounding five others.
Iraqi authorities have struggled to curb attacks on the Green Zone. The barrage of missiles broke a nearly month-long pause in hostilities by Shiite groups, which have deep ties to Iran and want US forces to leave Iraq.
The Taliban had agreed to stop attacking American forces and harboring al-Qaeda as part of A. Deal In February, to secure the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. The extremist group also agreed to end the war with its counterparts in the Kabul government. These conversations have only just begun, months behind schedule.
“[The] “The Taliban did not do anything – it did not meet any condition – that would justify the cut,” Thornberry said in a statement.
A Western diplomat in Washington said the timeline appeared to be dictated by politics, not reality on the ground.
“Any cuts that he does not see are driven by conditions on the ground will undermine the confidence of the allies,” the diplomat said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg – who still has non-US coalition forces in Afghanistan and a training mission in Iraq – has warned of a very rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan in particular.
“We have been in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years and none of NATO allies want to stay longer than necessary,” he said in a statement earlier on Tuesday. “But at the same time, the price to leave too early or in an uncoordinated way can be very high.”
Later on Tuesday, Trump appointed Scott O’Grady, a former fighter pilot shot down in Bosnia, to the position of assistant secretary of defense, focusing on international security matters.
Additional reporting by Michael Bell in Brussels and Chloe Cornish in Beirut