US announces plans to cut troop levels in Afghanistan, Iraq
The decision to drastically reduce the American military presence was criticized by representatives of both parties
In the coming weeks, thousands of U.S. troops serving in the Middle East will return home after President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of some 2,000 troops from Afghanistan and 500 – from Iraq. The withdrawal must be completed before the presidential inauguration, which will take place at the end of January 2021.
Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller told a news conference at the Pentagon on Tuesday that by January 15, the number of US troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan will not exceed 2,500..
Miller stated that the reduction of the military presence was not «equates to a change in US policy or objectives» in the global war on terrorism and will be conducted in such a way as to protect the American military, diplomats, intelligence officers and allies. Miller did not answer journalists’ questions after his speech.
Chris Miller, acting US Secretary of Defense
President Trump’s national security adviser Robert O spoke about similar plans back in October.’Brian. Then the Pentagon did not comment on this statement..
Miller said that early Tuesday morning, he briefed congressional leaders, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani about plans to reduce the American troop contingent..
«President Ghani highlighted the high-class qualities of our military, which, as he noted, have always been more important than their numbers. We will continue to support (Ghani) while his government works towards a peaceful negotiated settlement», – said Miller.
NATO troops currently deployed in Afghanistan outnumber U.S. troops, and Pentagon sources say the U.S. Department of Defense is asking allies to maintain its presence in the country despite Trump’s plans to drastically reduce U.S. troops in Afghanistan..
Taliban rule in Afghanistan was overthrown 19 years ago by a US invasion that received strong public support after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks from «Al-Qaeda», whose leadership was based in Afghanistan. However, as the protracted war continued, American public opinion changed, and President Trump took office in 2016, promising to withdraw US involvement in foreign military conflicts..
A senior Pentagon source told reporters on Tuesday that the remaining contingent would be sufficient to protect the US military, US allies and Afghan civilians..
However, several other sources in the Department of Defense said «Voice of America», that a significant reduction in forces will lead to at least some reduction in the scope of US missions in Afghanistan.
«We are currently working on detailed planning to determine what impact this (reduction) will have on (our) specific capabilities.», – one of the sources said on Tuesday, on condition of anonymity.
U.S. Marines at a military camp; Shorab in the Afghan province of Helmand, January 15, 2018.
Former senior Pentagon officials say they are worried about the alleged withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, especially during the transition of the presidency from the Republicans to the Democrats..
«It’s a very strange time – it’s hard to see the true strategy behind these shenanigans.», – stated «Voice of America» one of the former high-ranking employees of the Ministry of Defense on condition of anonymity.
Reports of possible reductions in Afghanistan began to surface on Monday and immediately drew criticism from experts, former officials and even some of President Trump’s closest allies, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell..
«There is not a single American who does not want the war in Afghanistan against terrorists and their accomplices to be finally won. But… a quick withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan will now harm our allies and delight people who wish us harm», – McConnell said on Monday.
Mitch McConnell urged president to continue pressure on Taliban «until the conditions for long-term defeat are met» «Islamic State» and «Al-Qaeda». Otherwise, according to the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan will resemble «the humiliating departure of Americans from Saigon» in 1975, and will have a more negative impact than the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, which, he said, led to an increase in «Islamic State».
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell
Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger in an interview «Voice of America» named «erroneous» the decision to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan without creating appropriate conditions on the ground. According to Kinzinger, this will undermine the leverage that could be used in negotiations on a truce between the Afghan government and «The Taliban».
Democratic Senator Tim Kane on Tuesday also criticized Trump’s decision.
«We have always said that the withdrawal (of the troops) should be based on conditions, and not be arbitrary, but this is worse than an arbitrarily set date (of the withdrawal of troops), this is a date dictated by political (interests)», – said Kane.
Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth questioned the reality of the timing of the withdrawal, saying that «logistically» planning a large-scale withdrawal in such a short time is impossible.
A week ago, President Trump unexpectedly fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, appointing Christopher Miller, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as acting head of the Pentagon..
According to the Washington Post, in early November, Esper sent a classified memo to the White House expressing concern over plans to drastically reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan. Esper explained this by the fact that the level of violence in the country is still high, and peace negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul are being delayed..
Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper
Miller’s senior adviser, retired Colonel Douglas McGregor, is calling for the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the closure of the US embassy in Kabul. Anthony Tata, who has been acting as Deputy Secretary of Defense for Political Affairs since Tuesday, also recently called for a complete withdrawal of the military from this country..
In a memorandum sent to Pentagon employees on Monday, the acting. Defense Secretary Miller named «responsible end of the current war» in Afghanistan one of its main tasks.
About 4,500 American troops are currently serving in Afghanistan. About 3,000 military personnel are currently based in Iraq. In both countries, the main task of the US military is to help local authorities in the fight against terrorists from «Al-Qaeda», «Islamic State» and a number of other groups.