Pentagon to cut troop levels to 2,500 in Iraq, Afghanistan
November 18, 2020 - The U.S. will reduce troop numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan to their lowest levels in nearly 20 years or war, in a move reflecting President Donald Trump’s pledge to end the country’s long conflicts abroad.
The plan calls for reducing troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan by mid-January, despite arguments from senior military officials in favour of a slower, more methodical pullout to preserve hard-fought gains.
Acting Defence Secretary Christopher Miller said Tuesday the U.S. will reduce troop levels in Afghanistan from more than 4,500 to 2,500, and in Iraq from about 3,000 to 2,500.
The withdrawal plan falls short of Trump’s oft-repeated vow to end America’s long wars. It also runs counter to his guidance that troop withdrawals be based on the conditions on the ground, not a date on the calendar.
In Afghanistan, in particular, military and defence leaders have consistently said the Taliban has not yet met requirements to reduce violent attacks against Afghan government forces. Some have worried that too-fast troop reductions would strengthen the negotiating hand of the Taliban and weaken the position of an already-weak Afghan government.
The decision has already received a cool reception from some Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, and a somewhat uncharacteristically blunt critique from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Stoltenberg earlier Tuesday warned that NATO could pay a heavy price for leaving Afghanistan too early.
NATO has fewer than 12,000 troops from dozens of nations helping to train and advise the Afghan national security forces. The 30-nation alliance relies heavily on the United States armed forces for transport, logistics and other support.
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