Pentagon announces troop reductions in Afghanistan and Iraq
2,500 American troops will remain in each country by mid-January.
November 17, 2020, 8:40 PM
• 4 min read
The U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan and Iraq will be reduced to 2,500 in each country by mid-January, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced on Tuesday.
Miller made the announcement in measured remarks to Pentagon reporters that highlighted the next step in what he called “President Trump’s plan to bring the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to a successful and responsible conclusion and to bring our brave service members home.”
He said that President Donald Trump made the decision to draw down troops in both countries in consultation with his top national security officials and that it did not amount to a change in policy. There are currently 4,500 American troops serving in Afghanistan and 3,000 in Iraq.
Noting the more than 6,900 American military deaths and 52,000 service members injured in the conflicts in both countries, Miller said that “in light of these tremendous sacrifices, and with great humility and gratitude to those who came before us, I’m formally announcing that we will implement President Trump’s orders to continue our repositioning of forces from those two countries.”
Speaking of the conflict in Afghanistan, Miller said that “with the blessings of providence in the coming year, we will finish this generational war, and bring our men and women home.”
The decision to go down to 2,500 troops by mid-January in Afghanistan will make feasible the pullout of all American troops in Afghanistan by May 2021, as outlined in the U.S.-Taliban peace deal.
But that full withdrawal depended on security conditions on the ground in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s adherence to not attack U.S. forces.
U.S. military leaders have previously said publicly that it was not enough for the Taliban to not attack American forces while significantly increasing attacks against Afghan security forces.
Based on those conditions they said they would be cautious in recommending a further drawdown.
But it appears the conditions have been changed, adjusting the lens through which senior military leaders assessed the situation on the ground.
According to a senior defense official the conditions used to measure the drawdown are now based whether national security would be threatened by a reduction in Afghanistan to 2,500 troops.
“We do not feel that it is,” said the official.
The other condition was, “can we maintain a force posture in Afghanistan that permits us to carry out our mission with our allies and partners.”