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Friday, 15 January 2021

Trump to cut troop levels in Afghanistan, Iraq

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Trump to cut troop levels in Afghanistan, Iraq
Trump to cut troop levels in Afghanistan, Iraq

[NFA] President Donald Trump will sharply reduce the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday, stopping short of a full withdrawal from America's longest war.

Colette Luke has the latest.

President Donald Trump will sharply reduce the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 before he leaves office, stopping short of the complete withdrawal he pledged to carry out by Christmas.

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who Trump installed last week after firing Mark Esper, made the announcement on Tuesday at the Pentagon and also outlined a modest withdrawal of forces in Iraq, reducing troop levels there from 3,000 to 2,500.

“By January 15th, 2021, our forces, their size in Afghanistan will be 2,500 troops.

Our forces 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 US policy or objectives." White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien afterwards went further, telling reporters that Trump hoped that all U.S. troops will be home from Afghanistan and Iraq in the spring.

“By May, it is President Trump's hope that they will all come home safely and in their entirety." Trump’s decision to limit himself to a partial withdrawal in Afghanistan was first reported by Reuters on Monday and triggered a rebuke from senior Republicans who fear it will undermine security and hurt fragile peace talks with the Taliban.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Tuesday again warned against any major changes in U.S. defense or foreign policy right now: “I think its extremely important here in the next couple of months not to have any earth-shaking changes in regard to defense and foreign policy.

Uh, I think a precipitous draw-down in either Afghanistan or Iraq would be a mistake.

I've so said publicly yesterday, and I hope thats precisely where these discussions end up." The withdrawals could hand President-elect Joe Biden a new set of challenges when he takes office on Jan.

20.

U.S. and Afghan officials are warning of troubling levels of violence by Taliban insurgents and persistent Taliban links to al Qaeda.

It was those ties that triggered U.S. military intervention in 2001 following the al Qaeda Sept.

11 attacks on the U.S., leaving thousands of American and allied troops dead since then in America’s longest war.

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