Trump officially orders withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller briefs reporters from the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. Nov. 17, 2020. (DoD Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

Update: Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller officially announced the decision to bring home troops overseas on Tuesday at the Pentagon. 

President Trump ordered the Pentagon to accelerate a drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq before he leaves office.

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller briefs reporters from the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. Nov. 17, 2020. (DoD Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

According to Bloomberg, the number of troops in each nation will only be 2,500 by January 15th.

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President Donald Trump intends to order the withdrawal of U.S. troops from war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to two administration sources.

The cuts would take effect by mid-January, according to the sources who were not authorized to speak publicly. Trump is scheduled to leave office on Jan. 20. President-elect Joe Biden would have the authority to reverse Trump’s order.

There are about 4,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and a few thousand in Iraq. Trump has vowed to end what he has referred to as “endless wars” in those countries. The United States has had troops in Afghanistan since 2001 after the 9/11 terror attacks, and in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

Under the plan,which the sources said is being finalized. there would be about 2,500 U.S. troops total in each country once the drawdown is completed.

Trump has reduced troop levels in both countries since taking office. However, officials at the Pentagon have pushed back on precipitous withdrawals, arguing that reductions should be based on security conditions in each country.

Troop levels have been a bone of contention among Trump and national security officials. Last week, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and replaced him with acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller. Miller, in his initial address to troops and civilian employees, indicated that he would support a withdrawal.

“Ending wars requires compromise and partnership,” Miller wrote. “We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home.”

In October, Trump tweeted that he wanted troops home from Afghanistan by Christmas. A goal that will not be met.

Robert O’Brien, the National Security Adviser, also said last month that troop levels would likely drop to 2,500 by early next year. That prompted Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to tell NPR that the war needed to be ended “responsibly, deliberately” with consideration paid to levels of violence there.

The White House has been negotiating with Taliban militants to reach a peace deal with the Afghan government to end fighting and allow an American withdrawal. Fighting, however, continues there.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell praised Trump’s policies in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan but spoke out against a hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“There’s no American who does not wish the war against Afghanistan against terrorists and their enablers had already been conclusively won,” McConnell said. “But that does not change the actual choice before us now: A rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan now would hurt our allies and delight – delight – the people who wish us harm.”

Contributing: Ledyard King

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