In what could be his final major order as Commander-in-Chief, Donald Trump plans to withdraw a significant chunk of remaining troops from the Middle East by the end of his term.
If nothing changes, if the Trump’s lawsuits fail in court, Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States. But regardless of who’s sworn in on January 20th, Donald Trump still has two full months to effectuate his vision. While most thought the majority of his final two months would be spent distributing Coronavirus vaccines created thanks to Operation Warp Speed, the president decided to fulfill yet another campaign promise: pulling out of endless wars.
“The White House will bring home 2,500 troops from Afghanistan and Iraq by the end of the year,” NPR reports, effectively reducing “the American presence by about a third, from 4,500 to 2,500 in Afghanistan and 3,000 to 2,500 in Iraq.”
Following 9/11, George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan in October of 2001 to drive the Taliban out of power and hunt down Al-Qaeda members responsible for the attack on the United States and acts of terrorism across the globe. U.S. and NATO forces successfully drove the Taliban out of power within a few months and maintained a limited presence in the country, defending its new government, for almost 20 years. The Taliban has launched attacks against allied forces with varying degrees of effectiveness throughout the occupation.
Troops first invaded Iraq in 2003 after U.S. intelligence reported Saddam Hussein was stockpiling Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Those reports would later be debunked after ground forces found no evidence of WMD’s. While the war officially ended in 2011 with the toppling of the Iraqi government, America maintained an active military presence in the area ever since.
Trump, who initially increased our presence in occupied Middle Eastern countries, began withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in December, 2018. In that same order, Trump ordered a withdrawal from Syria.
Contrary to the spin, Trump remains the only U.S. President in more than 40 years to not start any new wars and has consistently shown more restraint than both parties in his use of force.
“NPR’s Tom Bowman reported the move is opposed by senior military leaders, given Afghanistan’s fragile state,” the outlet added. “Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have seemingly stalled, and violent attacks have risen 50% in recent months.”
“The withdrawal will likely have little effect on the ground, Bowman reported, since U.S. forces will still be training elements of the Afghan military. U.S. airstrikes against Taliban forces will also continue since forces fly out of Kuwait and other countries in the region.”
Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said Trump is carrying out his 2016 campaign promise “to bring the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to a successful and responsible conclusion and to bring our brave service members home”.
“We will protect our children from the heavy burden and toll of perpetual war, and we will honour the sacrifices made in the services of peace and stability in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world,” Miller continued.
Though he’s pushing policy popular with his base, many Congressional Republicans have come out against Trump’s efforts to shrink our global military presence. In a rare rebuke of the President, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell criticized Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from their training and advising role in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We’re playing a limited – limited – but important role in defending American national security and American interests against terrorists who would like nothing more than for the most powerful force for good in the world to simply pick up our ball and go home.” The Republican leader added, “they would love that.”
U.S. forces seldom engage in direct combat missions nowadays. Their role has largely been reduced to training Afghani and Iraqi troops, participating in support roles for allies, and defending American diplomats in the area. The Pentagon does not anticipate any hiccups in their core objections from this withdrawal.