Pentagon to cut troop levels to 2,500 in Iraq, Afghanistan

Acting US Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced plans to reduce US troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan on Tuesday. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 18 November 2020

Pentagon to cut troop levels to 2,500 in Iraq, Afghanistan

  • Said the decision fulfils President Donald Trump’s pledge to bring forces home

WASHINGTON: The US will slash troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq to their lowest levels in nearly 20 years of war after President Donald Trump pledged to end conflicts abroad, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.
Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said around 2,000 troops would be pulled from Afghanistan by January 15, and 500 more would come back from Iraq, leaving 2,500 in each country.
The moves reflect Trump's policy "to bring the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to a successful and responsible conclusion and to bring our brave service members home," Miller said.
Miller said the US had met its goals, set in 2001 after the Al Qaeda attacks on the United States, to defeat Islamist extremists and to help "local partners and allies to take the lead in the fight."
"With the blessings of providence in the coming year, we will finish this generational war and bring our men and women home," he said.
"We will protect our children from the heavy burden and toll of perpetual war, and we will honor the sacrifices made in the services of peace and stability in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world."
The announcement came 10 days after Trump fired defense secretary Mark Esper, who had insisted on the need to keep 4,500 troops in Afghanistan to support the Kabul government while it negotiates a peace deal with the Taliban insurgents.
US troops had already been cut by nearly two-thirds from about 13,000 this year, following the February 29 peace deal between the United States and the Taliban.
The two sides agreed that the Taliban would then negotiate a peace pact with the Afghan government, and that US troops would be gone by May 2021.
But until Esper's replacement with Miller, Pentagon generals had said that the Taliban had not lived up to pledges to reduce violent attacks on government forces, and that further reductions would take pressure off them to negotiate.
The announcement came over the objections of allies and senior US politicians worried that the reductions would leave the Afghan and Iraq governments vulnerable to extremist groups.
"Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organise attacks on our homelands," NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned Tuesday.
"And ISIS (the Islamic State group) could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq," he said.
On Monday US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned the Afghan cuts could lead to a debacle like the US withdrawal from South Vietnam and be a propaganda victory for Islamic extremists.
"The consequences of a premature US exit would likely be even worse than president Obama's withdrawal from Iraq back in 2011, which fueled the rise of ISIS and a new round of global terrorism," McConnell said on the Senate floor.
"It would be reminiscent of the humiliating America departure from Saigon in 1975."
But Trump, who lost his bid for reelection on November 3 to Democrat Joe Biden, has been determined to make good on a campaign pledge made in 2016 to bring US troops home and end costly wars abroad.


Turkey orders detention of 82 military personnel over suspected Gulen links -Anadolu

Updated 11 min 15 sec ago

Turkey orders detention of 82 military personnel over suspected Gulen links -Anadolu

ISTANBUL: Turkey ordered the detention of 82 military personnel in an operation targeting supporters of the Muslim preacher who Ankara says was behind a failed coup in 2016, state-owned Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday.
Operations targeting the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen have continued under a four-year-long crackdown since the attempted coup in July 2016. Gulen denies involvement in the putsch attempt, in which some 250 people were killed.
Tuesday’s operation was spread over 39 provinces and 63 people have already been detained, Anadolu said. Of the suspects, 70 were on active duty.
The detentions were ordered by the chief prosecutor in the western coastal province of Izmir, Anadolu said, adding that it also took steps to sack 848 military personnel, including high ranking officers, over links to the network.
Since the coup attempt, about 80,000 people have been held pending trial and some 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended. More than 20,000 people had been expelled from the Turkish military alone.
Last week, a Turkish court sentenced leaders of the attempted coup to life in jail, convicting hundreds of army officers, pilots and civilians over the failed bid to topple President Tayyip Erdogan.