(CNN) — US military commanders anticipate that President Trump will issue a formal order as early as this week to begin a fresh withdrawal of US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq before Trump leaves office on January 20, according to two familiar US officials.
The Pentagon has issued a notice to commanders known as a “warning order” to begin planning to reduce US troops to 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and 2,500 in Iraq by January 15, the officials said. There are currently approximately 4,500 US troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 US troops in Iraq.
The Pentagon and the White House did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
The move goes against the recommendation of military commanders who have long argued that any further withdrawal must be based on conditions and that the situation currently does not warrant an additional withdrawal.
Recent sweeping changes at the Pentagon have put Trump loyalists in their place and insiders told CNN’s Jake Tapper last week that the White House-led purge at the Defense Department may have been motivated by the fact. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper and his team were rejecting a premature withdrawal from Afghanistan that would take place before required conditions on the ground and other pending security issues were met.
Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller forcibly sent a seemingly contradictory message saying the United States must continue its battle against Al Qaeda and the terrorist forces behind 9/11, while saying it was time to bring the military home. .
“This war is not over,” Miller wrote in his message. “We are about to defeat al Qaeda and its associates, but we must avoid our past strategic mistake of not being able to carry the fight to the end. In fact, this fight has been long, our sacrifices have been enormous, and many are weary of the war, I am one of them, but this is the critical phase where we transition our efforts from a leadership to a role of support, ”he wrote, referring to the current role of the United States in supporting counterterrorism campaigns like Afghanistan’s.
“All wars must end. Ending wars requires commitment and partnership. We overcome the challenge; We gave it our all Now is the time to go home, ”Miller wrote.
— Vivian Salama y Ryan Browne