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President Donald Trump’s 11th-hour move to drawdown US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq drew swift and bipartisan condemnation.
Trump’s newly installed acting defense secretary, Christopher Miller, announced the troop reductions Tuesday.
Miller himself has just come to the top job at the Pentagon, as Trump sacked former Defense Secretary Mark Esper this month.
“In light of these tremendous sacrifices, and with great humility and gratitude to those who came before us, I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump’s orders to continue our repositioning of forces from those two countries by January 15th, 2001 — excuse me, I clearly am thinking of where this started, in 2001 — by January 15th, 2021, our forces, their size in Afghanistan will be 2,500 troops,” Miller said. “Our force size 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 U.S. policy or objectives.”
There are currently around 4,500 U.S. service members in Afghanistan and 3,000 in Iraq.
Trump announced his troop moves as he is preparing to hand off the role of commander-in-chief in a matter of weeks to President-elect Biden.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost both of her legs serving in combat in Iraq as a helicopter pilot, denounced the decision.
“All of the military commanders have spoken up and said this is the wrong thing to do. We want our troops home, but let’s not bring them home in body bags,” she said. “And that’s potentially what’s going to happen if this president gets his way and puts his own political timeline ahead of our national security.”
In a rare show of bipartisanship, Republicans joined her, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).
“Precipitous drawdown in either Afghanistan or Iraq would be a mistake,” he said.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) tied Trump’s drawdown to the Iraq withdrawal by President Barack Obama which at the time was heavily criticized by the GOP.
“I’m having a hard time seeing what the difference is between this and the mistake President Obama made to leave Iraq. The president’s overarching promise was to destroy ISIS. So leaving Iraq with 2,500 troops, leaving Afghanistan with 2,500 troops, it sounds like it’s more of a focus on the number than the mission,” Kinzinger said. “And that’s a huge concern. If you’re going to have troops engaged in hostile territory, even in peace-keeping operations, the numbers should not be what you concerned with. The mission and the ability to follow through on it should be the top concern.”
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