(November 16, 2020 / JNS) U.S. military commanders expect a formal order as soon as this week from U.S. President Donald Trump to further withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to CNN on Monday, citing two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
“The Pentagon has issued a notice to commanders known as a ‘warning order’ to begin planning to draw down the number of troops in Afghanistan to 2,500 troops and 2,500 in Iraq by Jan. 15, said the officials. Currently, there are approximately 4,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 troops in Iraq,” reported CNN.
Jan. 15 is five days before Joe Biden is set to be sworn in as president. The president-elect has expressed support for U.S. troop withdrawals from the Middle East but has called for the United States to have a small counterterrorism force there.
The U.S. Department of Defense and White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN, which first reported the development. and expressed concern that the move is being rushed before the start of the new administration.
The expected withdrawals come in the aftermath of shakeups at the Pentagon last week in which U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper was fired and replaced with Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, who is serving in an acting capacity.
On Friday, Miller sent an apparently contradictory message to U.S. troops that while America must continue to fight Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, it was also time to bring troops home.
“This war isn’t over,” wrote Miller. “We are on the verge of defeating al Qaida [sic] and its associates, but we must avoid our past strategic error of failing to see the fight through to the finish. Indeed, this fight has been long, our sacrifices have been enormous, and many are weary of war—I’m one of them—but this is the critical phase in which we transition our efforts from leadership to supporting role.”
“All wars must end. Ending wars requires compromise and partnership,” added Miller. “We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home.”
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