ALL NEWS

President Trump to order troop reductions in Afghanistan, Iraq

Nov 16, 2020, 2:16 PM
President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, in Wash...
President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, Friday, Nov. 13, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON– The Trump administration is expected to cut the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan almost in half to 2,500 by Jan. 15, U.S. officials said Monday. The order would stop short of outgoing President Donald Trump’s goal to have all troops withdrawn by the end of the year, which had faced opposition from military and diplomatic advisers.

The Pentagon also expects to cut the number of troops in Iraq to 2,500, a reduction of more than 500. The decisions come as no surprise, following President Trump’s shakeup of the Pentagon leadership last week in which he installed loyalists who share his frustration with the continued troop presence in the war zones. The cuts give President Trump an accomplishment in his final weeks in office even as he refuses to concede his election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

The officials said military leaders were told over the weekend about the planned withdrawals and an executive order is in the works but has not yet been delivered to commanders. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. There are between 4,500-5,000 troops in Afghanistan now, and more than 3,000 in Iraq.

Under the planned order, the troop cuts would be completed just five days before Biden takes office, leaving him with a smaller military footprint in the two key war zones. Military commanders have expressed less concern about pulling more troops from Iraq, where the Iraqi forces are better able to maintain their nation’s security.

President Trump’s new Pentagon chief, Christopher Miller, hinted at the troop withdrawals over the weekend in a carefully worded message to the force that suggested a compromise.

He said that “we remain committed to finishing the war that Al Qaida brought to our shores in 2001.” And he warned that “we must avoid our past strategic error of failing to see the fight through to the finish.”

But he also made it clear that “all wars must end.”

“This fight has been long, our sacrifices have been enormous. and many are weary of war – I’m one of them,” he said. “Ending wars requires compromise and partnership. We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home.”

The accelerated withdrawal, however, goes against the longstanding advice from President Trump’s military leadership, including Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, top U.S. commander for the Middle East. But officials suggested this week that commanders will be able to live with the partial pullout, which allows them to keep counterterrorism troops in Afghanistan and gives more time to remove critical equipment.

McKenzie and others have repeatedly argued that a hasty withdrawal could undercut negotiations to finalize ongoing peace negotiations between the Taliban and representatives of Afghan society, including the current Afghan government. And they also warn that U.S. forces should remain in the country to keep Islamic State militants in check.

Biden has sounded less absolute about troop withdrawal. He has said some troops could stay in Afghanistan to focus on the counterterrorism mission. In response to a questionnaire before the election, he said, “Americans are rightly wary of our longest war; I am, too. But we must end the war responsibly, in a manner that ensures we both guard against threats to our homeland and never have to go back.”

The expected order adds to what has been a litany of muddled White House and Pentagon messages on troops withdrawals from both Afghanistan and Iraq, only exacerbating what has been an emotional roller coaster for the troops and their families.

The Pentagon was already on track to cut troops levels in Afghanistan to about 4,500 by mid-November. U.S. military leaders have consistently said that going below that number must be based on conditions on the ground, including a measurable reduction in attacks by the Taliban on Afghan troops. And they insist they have not seen that yet.

America’s exit from Afghanistan after 19 years was laid out in a February agreement Washington reached with the Taliban. That agreement said U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan in 18 months, provided the Taliban honored a commitment to fight terrorist groups, with most attention seemingly focused on the Islamic State group’s affiliate in the country.

Military officials also have warned that there is a large amount of critical, classified equipment at bases in Afghanistan that needs to be removed, but it will take more time. And they also say that any full U.S. withdrawal needs to be coordinated with other coalition allies that have troops in the country.

The White House, however, issued a confusing series of statements about Afghanistan over the past month. President Trump on Oct. 7 tweeted that “we should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas.” When asked about those comments, Robert O’Brien, his national security adviser, said the president was just expressing hope.

O’Brien, meanwhile, has said the number of troops in Afghanistan would drop to 2,500 by early next year. At the time, defense officials said they had not gotten orders to cut troops to 2,500. And they warned that withdrawing troops quickly could remove some incentive for the struggling peace talks.

According to the February agreement, the U.S. troop withdrawal next year is tied to the Taliban’s commitment to fighting terror groups — such as the Islamic State — in the county and is not linked to successful negotiations between the Taliban and government. The Islamic State group is seen as extremely dangerous and intent on targeting America and other Western interests.

The Taliban and Afghan government negotiators have been meeting for over a month in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar with little sign of progress. The Taliban, meanwhile, have staged near-daily deadly attacks against Afghan forces.

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in late 2001, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America. The war has dragged on through three presidential administrations, despite repeated efforts to defeat terror groups, stabilize and root out corruption in the government, and train Afghan forces to secure their own country so that the U.S.-led coalition can safely leave.
____
Associated Press writer Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

Carrier at USPS mail truck, USPS is holding a job fair...
Mark Jones

Authorities looking for suspect who allegedly robbed post office employee

Authorities are searching for an individual who allegedly robbed an post office employee on Tuesday.
23 hours ago
Changes could be coming to all elementary schools in the Salt Lake City School District....
Mark Jones

Possible changes to schools could be coming in Salt Lake City School District

Changes could be coming to all elementary schools in the Salt Lake City School District.
23 hours ago
A 31-year-old man was taken into custody Wednesday in connection to a bank robbery earlier in the d...
Mark Jones

Bank robbery suspect taken into custody by Salt Lake City police

A 31-year-old man was taken into custody Wednesday in connection to a bank robbery earlier in the day.
23 hours ago
Utah 2022 legislative session...
Lindsay Aerts

Count My Vote threatens ballot initiative to protect signature path to primary ballot if new bill passes

SALT LAKE CITY — A new war is brewing over signature gathering.  The citizens initiative group that ushered in Utah’s decade-old compromise creating a dual path for candidates to get on the primary election ballot — which includes signature gathering, the caucus convention system or both — is threatening to launch a statewide ballot initiative […]
23 hours ago
Brigham City Police need help in locating a missing  14-year-old endangered boy....
Waverly Golden

Brigham City Police locate missing teenager

Brigham City Police need help in locating a missing  14-year-old endangered boy. 
23 hours ago
wallet...
Elizabeth Weiler

Utahns found wallet in a wall from 1970, looking to reunite with owner

After a local restoration company was called to remediate an emergency, they began tearing down walls, leading to a wallet found in the insulation. 
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

This article about skijoring is sponsored by the Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau. Participate in Skijoring the Bear on February 20th, 2023.  What is skijoring? Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and […]
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
President Trump to order troop reductions in Afghanistan, Iraq