Defense Chief Announces Plan to Implement President Trump’s Troop Drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq
Do you support the drawdown of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq?
What’s the story?
- Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller announced on Tuesday that the Pentagon will implement the next phase of President Donald Trump’s drawdown of American military personnel from Afghanistan and Iraq by mid-January before the presidential transition concludes on Inauguration Day.
- The drawdown will reduce U.S. force levels in Afghanistan by half from about 5,000 troops to 2,500 troops, while the force level in Iraq will decline from 3,000 to 2,500 troops; continuing the drawdown President Trump pushed for on the campaign trail and while in office. For reference, the U.S. had about 15,000 troops in Afghanistan in 2018 and 5,200 troops in Iraq earlier in 2020. Miller remarked:
“We owe this moment to the many patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice and their comrades who carry forward their legacy. Together, we have mourned the loss of more than 6,900 American troops who gave their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq. And we will never forget the more than 52,000 who bear the wounds of war, and all those who still carry its scars ― visible and invisible.
In light of these tremendous sacrifices, and with great humility and gratitude to those who came before us, I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump’s orders to continue our repositioning of forces from those two countries.
By January 15, 2021, our force size in Afghanistan will be 2,500 troops. Our force size in Iraq will also be 2,500 by that same date. 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 and objectives…
I want to thank the Afghans and Iraqis who have partnered with us throughout, and who now carry the bulk of the fighting to secure their homelands. I want to thank our NATO allies and other partners who have fought alongside us and taken the lead on training and advising the Afghan and Iraqi security forces ― we will continue to support their efforts. And, thanks to our more than 80 partners in the Defeat ISIS Coalition, we have destroyed the ISIS caliphate and will ensure they never again gain a foothold to attack our people.”
- Miller served as a Green Beret in the Army’s 5th Special Forces Group in both Afghanistan and Iraq after the September 11th terror attacks. He was reportedly part of the initial invasion of Afghanistan by special forces soldiers who fought on horseback alongside the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.
- Miller has served as acting defense secretary since November 9th, when Mark Esper was terminated as defense chief. He had been confirmed as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center by the Senate on a voice vote on August 6, 2020.
Mixed Reaction From Congress
- Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) praised the announcement in a tweet:
“What brings Big Government Republicans and Democrats together? Support for Endless War. After 19 years in Afghanistan, it’s high time to bring our troops home!”
- Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) released a statement calling the drawdown a “politically-motivated decision” that could worsen national security challenges:
“The decision to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, and potentially elsewhere should not be based on the U.S. political calendar. The administration has yet to explain why reducing troops in Afghanistan ― where conditions for withdrawal have not been met ― is a wise decision for our national security interests in the region. Similarly, with continued security challenges in the Middle East, an arbitrary withdrawal from Iraq risks alienating our allies and emboldening our enemies.”
- House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) released a statement that was generally supportive of the drawdown:
“After speaking with the Acting Secretary this morning, I believe reducing our forward deployed footprint in Afghanistan down to 2,500 troops is the right policy decision. At the same time, this reduction must be responsibly and carefully executed to ensure stability in the region. While the history of conflict in the region is complex and predates our direct involvement, after nearly 20 years of armed conflict, Americans and Afghans alike are ready for the violence to end. It is clear that groups like ISIS-K and the Taliban will continue to fight and sow chaos, but ultimately it is up to the Afghans to find a sustainable path to peace.”
- Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) released a statement accusing President Trump of following through with the drawdown out of spite because he lost the election:
“There’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. President Trump is once again choosing the wrong way and we can’t let U.S. national security and our relationships with steadfast partners become a casualty of President Trump’s wounded ego. Instead of heeding the advice of national security professionals and working with our allies, President Trump is venting his frustration over losing the election in a manner that is more costly, jeopardizes our military personnel, aids the Taliban and terrorist networks, and emboldens those who want greater conflict with Iran. There are no easy solutions to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, but this short-sighted approach won’t bring peace and is more likely to threaten America’s interests.”
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: The U.S. Army via Flickr / Creative Commons)
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