Trump administration cuts troops in Afghanistan, Iraq

Trump administration cuts troops in Afghanistan, Iraq

November 17, 2020

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Washington: The Trump administration has announced it will halve the number of US troops in Afghanistan within months, while also cutting the number of troops in Iraq.

Acting US defence secretary Christopher Miller, who was appointed to the role last week, told reporters in Washington that the number of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will be reduced to 2500 in each country by January 15.

That is just five days before Joe Biden is to be inaugurated as the 46th American president.

Acting defence secretary Christopher Miller revealed the US would reduce its troop numbers in Iraq and Afghanistan.Credit:AP

Miller described the plan to draw down troop numbers as "prudent, well-planned and co-ordinated".

"If the forces of terror, instability, division and hate begin a deliberate campaign to disrupt our efforts, we stand ready to apply the capabilities required to thwart them," he said.

There are currently around 5000 US troops in Afghanistan and 3000 in Iraq.

Robert O’Brien, national security adviser, makes a statement on troop levels to members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington.Credit:Bloomberg

Earlier in the day the head of NATO warned that pulling troops out of Afghanistan too quickly risked sparking a resurgence of terrorist activity in the country.

"We have been in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, and no NATO ally wants to stay any longer than necessary,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.

"But at the same time, the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high."

Exiting: A military vehicle damaged by a blast is transported in Kabul, Afghanistan.Credit:AP

He said: "Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organise attacks on our homelands.

"And ISIS could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq."

Trump has long campaigned on the need to end America's involvement in "endless wars" overseas and to bring troops home as quickly as possible.

Trump said in a Twitter post last month that he wanted all US troops to be home from Afghanistan by Christmas, but was talked out of a full withdrawal by top military and national security staffers.

Trump last week fired defence secretary Mark Esper, in part because Esper and other top officials at the Pentagon had opposed Trump's plans to quickly scale back the number of troops in Afghanistan.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has warned Trump about premature troop withdrawal. Credit:Bloomberg

Esper had reportedly warned that a rapid withdrawal could endanger remaining troops, harm America's alliances and undermine peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

In a rare break with Trump, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell warned on Tuesday: "A rapid withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan now would hurt our allies and delight the people who wish us harm.

"The consequences of a premature American exit would likely be even worse than President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq back in 2011, which fuelled the rise of ISIS and a new round of global terrorism.

"It would be reminiscent of the humiliating American departure from Saigon in 1975."

The announcement came on the same day that officials in Iraq revealed at least two rockets had exploded inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, wounding several people.

The Green Zone contains the Iraqi parliament and foreign embassies, including the American embassy.

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