Major U.S. Troop Drawdowns Expected In Afghanistan After Firing Of Defense Secretary
US Vice President Mike Pence poses for photos with troops after addressing them in a hangar at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on December 21, 2017.
AFP via Getty Images
Get started on your Homeland Security Degree at American Military University.
The Pentagon is preparing for President Donald Trump to cut the number of remaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan by more than 40% over the next two months, several news outlets reported Monday — a major withdrawal that was reportedly opposed by former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, whom Trump fired last week.
Trump is expected to almost halve the number of troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500, the Associated Press, CNN and the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, well below a peak of around 100,000 troops in 2011.
The president is also reportedly looking to cut troop levels in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500, below the country’s 2007 peak of more than 160,000.
The Pentagon sent out a “warning order” instructing military commanders to prepare for these drawdowns to take place by Jan. 15, just five days before Trump leaves office, sources told CNN.
Esper’s successor, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, foreshadowed the decision Friday in a somewhat confusing letter to U.S. personnel, telling them “this war isn’t over” but also insisting “it’s time to come home.”
The White House referred a request for comment to the Pentagon, and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to questions.
“Ending wars requires partnership and compromise,” Miller wrote Friday. “We’ve met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home.”
In recent months, Trump has reduced troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, driven partly by political pressure in Iraq and a landmark February deal with the Taliban that involved a gradual withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan. The president is especially eager to bring an end to the war in Afghanistan, a protracted conflict against the Taliban and related extremist groups that began weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. But some experts and military officials reportedly worry an abrupt withdrawal there could cause a tenuous security situation to fall into disarray. Violence flared earlier this year after the Taliban launched a new military offensive against Afghan forces in part of the country, and negotiations with the Taliban showed signs of stress as both the United States and the insurgent group traded accusations of violating their deal from earlier this year. Still, Trump tweeted with little warning last month that all U.S. troops would return from Afghanistan by Christmas, a rapid timeline that some military officials seemed to refute openly. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien later said the administration was aiming for 2,500 troops in Afghanistan by the end of the year.
Esper urged Trump this month not to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan any further, the Washington Post reported. He warned a premature withdrawal could destabilize the country and endanger any remaining U.S. troops. Trump abruptly fired Esper shortly after he expressed this view, though Esper has had a rocky relationship with Trump for months, and it’s unclear whether his dismissal was due to a disagreement on Afghanistan.
Learn From The Leader
American Military University (AMU) is proud to be the #1 provider of higher education to the U.S. military, based on FY 2018 DoD tuition assistance data, as reported by Military Times, 2019. At AMU, you’ll find instructors who are former leaders in the military, national security, and the public sector who bring their field-tested skills and strategies into the online classroom. And we work to keep our curriculum and content relevant to help you stay ahead of industry trends. Join the 64,000 U.S. military men and women earning degrees at American Military University.