The Pentagon announced Tuesday, November 17 that the United States would reduce the number of its troops in Afghanistan and Iraq in mid-January 2021. A decision feared by many elected Republicans and certain allies of Washington, who fear to see the extremist groups are strengthening in the Middle East.
“It’s a hasty and unexplained decision”, criticized even within the ranks of the Republican Party, rating the magazine Foreign Policy. While outgoing presidents generally refrain from taking major initiatives just before leaving office, Donald Trump decided on Tuesday to drastically reduce the United States‘ military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of his term.
The number of soldiers deployed in Afghanistan will be reduced from 4,500 to 2,500, while half a thousand American soldiers will be repatriated from Iraq, leaving around 2,500 soldiers on the ground. Defense officials speaking on condition of anonymity also told CNN that the Trump administration could withdraw more than 500 Somalia-based troops in the near future.
Mardi, “Several signs indicated that the violence was far from having subsided” in Iraq and Afghanistan, note it Wall Street Journal. “Almost immediately after the Pentagon announced the partial withdrawal of the troops, several mortar and rocket attacks took place in Baghdad, including near the American embassy”, killing a child, report it New York Times. These attacks could mark the resumption of a campaign against US interests in Iraq by Iranian-backed militias, the Wall Street Journal.
“Risk of a hasty departure”
In Afghanistan, a report released Tuesday by the Inspector General of the Defense Ministry concluded that levels of violence remained above seasonal norms and that the Taliban were targeting Afghan security forces and Afghan government officials. “If it had not been for dozens of US airstrikes in recent weeks in Afghanistan, after Taliban fighters threatened to invade several districts of Kandahar, the city would now be under siege,” US security officials said in New York Times.
Worried, several officials of the Republican Party, as well as the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have warned the Trump administration against leaving Iraq and Afghanistan too hasty.
“In a rare critique of American politics”, NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg said that “Afghanistan could again become a safe haven for international terrorist organizations seeking to harm Western countries if foreign forces leave too abruptly”, report it Washington Post. Sacked last week, former defense minister Mark Esper pleaded for the status quo, like other US military officials opposed to a withdrawal until violence on the ground subsides.
By deciding to partially withdraw US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, Donald Trump is keeping a promise made in 2016 during his election campaign. He had at the time sworn that he would put an end to the “Endless wars” in which the United States is involved overseas. If he takes this initiative at the end of his term, it is because the Republican “Is now considering another presidential candidacy in 2024”, note it Guardian. In four years, “He will use these promises to prove that he led the country successfully before being forced to step down because of a rigged election.”