White House Orders Thousands Of U.S. Troops Withdrawn from Afghanistan and Iraq
The White House will bring home 3,000 troops from Afghanistan and Iraq by the end of the year against the guidance of top military officials, a drawdown order which will reduce the American presence by about a third, from 4,500 to 2,500 in Afghanistan and 3,000 to 2,500 in Iraq, according to a U.S. official.
NPR's Tom Bowman reports the move is opposed by senior military leaders given Afghanistan's fragile state. Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have seemingly stalled and violent attacks have risen 50% in recent months. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley and head of U.S. Central Command Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie have advised the troop reduction be pushed to Spring 2021, Bowman reports.
The cutbacks can only be so surprising. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien had called the play one month ago when he said the number of troops in Afghanistan would drop to 2,500. Milley, in an interview with NPR at the time, said that number was "speculation" and that the United States was attempting to wind down these wars "responsibly."
O'Brien countered that the number had been approved by President Trump.
Trump had campaigned in 2016 on bringing the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan to an end. Last month, the president had tweeted, "We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!"
The withdrawal will likely have little effect on the ground, reports Bowman, since U.S. forces will still be training elements of the Afghan military. U.S. airstrikes against Taliban forces will also continue since forces fly out of Kuwait and other countries in the region. [Copyright 2020 NPR]