US to Cut Drastically Troops in Afghanistan, Iraq before Trump Goes, Pentagon Confirms
The US Department of Defense has confirmed what has been circulated as unconfirmed media reports in the past few dates: outgoing President Donald Trump is going to reduce dramatically the remaining American forces in Afghanistan and Iraq before he leaves office Democrat President-elect Joe Biden takes over on January 20, 2021.
Trump is thus going to withdraw 2,000 from the 4,500 US troops still remaining in Afghanistan, and 500 from the 3,000 US troops in Iraq, leaving each with about 2,500 US boots on the ground. The withdrawal is expected to take place before January 15, 2021.
“[The pullout reflects President Trump’s policy] to bring the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to a successful and responsible conclusion and to bring our brave service members home,” acting US Defense Secretary Chris Miller said on Tuesday.
Miller argued that the United States had achieved its goals in Afghanstan set in 2001 after the Al-Qaeda 9/11 attacks on the United States, namely, to defeat Islamist extremists and to help “local partners and allies to take the lead in the fight.”
“With the blessings of providence in the coming year, we will finish this generational war and bring our men and women home,” Miller said.
“We will protect our children from the heavy burden and toll of perpetual war, and we will honor the sacrifices made in the services of peace and stability in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world,” he added.
There had been reports in the media about the cutting of the US troop numbers in both Afghanistan and Iraq expected to happen before Trump leaves office.
The outgoing US President has repeatedly promised to reduce dramatically America’s direct military involvement abroad – despite criticism even from his own Republican Party.
On Monday, even before the Pentagon’s confirmation, leading Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, generally a Trump ally, lambasted the President’s alleged plans to bring home more US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a special statement on Tuesday, NATO Security-General Jens Stoltenberg also warned against the withdrawal of more American service personnel from Afghanistan where NATO has been involved for than a decade in the stabilization efforts.
At the beginning of 2020, the US still had about 13,000 troops in Afghanistan but has pulled out two-thirds of them after on February 29, 2020, it signed a peace deal with the Taliban.
Under it, the US and the Taliban agreed that the latter would negotiate a peace pact with the Afghan government, and which US troops would leave the country by May 2021.
The announcement about the drastic reduction of US troop numbers in Afghanistan and Iraq comes 10 days after Trump axed his previous Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who had been opposed to the pullout, arguing that the US had to keep its 4,500 troops in the former country in order to support the efforts of the Afghan government to strike a deal with the Taliban insurgents.
Before Esper’s sacking, Pentagon generals had warned that the Taliban had not fulfilled their promises to cut down their violent attacks on Afghan government forces, and thus a further reduction of US troop numbers was unwarranted.
Shortly after the announcement by the US Department of Defense about the upcoming partial pullouts from Afghanistan and Iraq, several rockets were fired into the Green Zone in Baghdad and landed near the US Embassy in the Iraqi capital, BBC News reported.
The incident was the first attack of its kind since in October 2020 Iraqi militias linked to Iran agreed to stop targeting the embassy compound last month. No casualties or damages have been reported.
The United States has been military involved in Afghanistan since 2001 when it targeted the Taliban regime in the wake of Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC.
American forces have been in Iraq since the spring of 2003 when they toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein over allegations that he owned weapons of mass destruction.
Both wars started under former Republican President George W. Bush have been initiated as his so called “war on terror”.