The US will slash troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq to their lowest levels in nearly 20 years of war after President Donald Trump pledged to end conflicts abroad, the Pentagon announced on 18 November, The Pentagon also outlined a modest withdrawal of US forces in Iraq that will reduce troop levels from 3,000 to 2,500.
Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said about 2,000 troops would be pulled out of Afghanistan by January 15 and 500 more would come back from Iraq, leaving 2,500 in each country. In a brief address to the press, Miller did not provide specifics for the reasons behind the move, but said it represented “the next phase of our campaign to defeat terrorists who perpetrated attacks on our homeland” and “to prevent future acts of terrorism against our nation.”
“This is consistent with our established plans and strategic objectives supported by the American people and does not equate to a change in U.S. policy or objectives,” Shortly after Miller’s announcement, O’Brien expanded on the role that the remaining forces in Iraq and Afghanistan will take on.
“Those troops will defend our embassies and the other agencies of the U.S. government doing important work in those countries,” he said. “By May, President Trump hopes that they will all come home safely, and in their entirety,” O’Brien added. According to articles and reports.
The U.S. exit from Afghanistan was laid out in a peace agreement made with the Taliban in February. Under the deal, Washington agreed to withdraw American troops by May 2021 in return for the Taliban renouncing terrorism and agreeing to direct peace talks with their foes in the Afghan government.
But according to an NBC article Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, said the Taliban had not been upholding their end of the agreement. “The Taliban has been scrupulous about not attacking U.S. or coalition forces in Afghanistan,” McKenzie said. “They have, however, continued to attack government security forces at a fairly high rate. And that’s very concerning.”
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told NPR in October that the plan was to draw down troops in Afghanistan to 4,500 by November, but the move still stops short of Trump’s pledge to end America’s longest war. Just last month, the president tweeted that he wanted to pull out all remaining troops in Afghanistan by Christmas.