About half of the troops currently in Afghanistan will be pulled out of the country and plans are already in motion for their withdrawal, which could take several months, according to a U.S. defense official with direct knowledge of the matter.
The decision was made at the same time as that to pull out troops from Syria, which prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis on Thursday.
The Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report the withdrawal of the 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, also writes that this move represents the first phase of the gradual drawdown of the 17-year war. A senior administration official said the withdrawal of the troops from such hot spots clearly demonstrates President Donald Trump’s aversion to long-running military entanglements due to their high costs.
“I think it shows how serious the President is about wanting to come out of conflicts. I think he wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close,” said the official.
This dramatic shift in the U.S. military approach to military engagement was met with a multitude of reactions within the administration, culminating in Mattis’ resignation.
The President’s decisions also make good on his campaign promise to put “America First”. In a tweet Thursday, Trump said it was “time to come home and rebuild.” He expressed his interest in pulling troops from both Syria and Afghanistan earlier this year, which immediately drew opposition from the U.S. national security establishment.
However, despite strong opposition to the move, President Trump ordered the withdrawal of the troops without a formal consultative process within his cabinet, the Journal adds. It also informs that the move to reduce U.S. military involvement in the Middle East and Africa comes alongside a new national security strategy that designates geopolitical competitors such as Russia and China greater threats than terrorists or failed states.