Almost twenty years after the attacks of September 11, the United States will reduce the number of its soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. About 2,000 soldiers will have withdrawn from Afghanistan on January 15, 2021, and 500 more will have left Iraq to leave only 2,500 soldiers in each country, announced Tuesday (November 17th) the new American minister of defense by interim, Christopher. Miller.
The withdrawal will come as Donald Trump, who promised in 2016 to put an end to “Endless wars”, will cede power to Democrat Joe Biden five days later.
This decision reflects the wish of the American president to “To end successfully and responsibly the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and bring our courageous soldiers home”, said Miller.
His predecessor Mark Esper, sacked last week, pleaded for the status quo, like other military officials opposed to a withdrawal until violence on the ground subsides. Nearly 7,000 US soldiers have died and more than 52,000 have been wounded since the launch of military offensives in Afghanistan in 2001 and then in Iraq two years later, according to the Pentagon.
Seven rockets target the US embassy at the same time
At the same time as Christopher Miller’s announcement on Tuesday evening, seven rockets targeted the United States embassy in Baghdad, breaking more than a month of truce decreed by pro-Iran Iraqi factions. Four projectiles fell in the ultra-protected green zone where this chancellery is located, while three others fell in neighborhoods of Baghdad, killing a girl and injuring five civilians, the army said.
The attack, carried out from a neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, the same source, also took place two hours after a telephone interview between Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The two men mentioned in particular, according to Mr. Kadhimi’s office, “The future of cooperation between Iraq and the international coalition led by the United States“, deployed in 2014 in Iraq to fight the jihadist group EI.
Dozens of rockets have already targeted the green zone of Baghdad where this chancellery is located. In mid-October, pro-Iran factions in Iraq announced that they would no longer attack the US embassy on condition that Washington announces the withdrawal of all its troops by the end of the year.
Fears of the allies
The American announcement raises fears in the United States and around the world of a resurgence of extremist groups. And if the “Caliphate” Self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) group collapsed in March 2019, jihadists continue to sow terror.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Monday that the United States “Give up” their allies in the event of an early withdrawal. This one “Would delight people who wish us harm”, warned Mr. McConnell, yet an ally of Mr. Trump.
Senator Jack Reed, Democratic member of the Armed Services Committee, denounced “A short-sighted approach [qui] will not bring peace and which more surely will threaten America ”.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that Afghanistan could “To become a base again for international terrorists” in the event of the withdrawal of some 12,000 Alliance troops, less than half of whom are American.
France felt it would be a bad idea and Germany, which has 1,300 troops deployed, demanded that this withdrawal be coordinated within NATO.
Rising violence in Afghanistan
“We went there together, we changed together, and when the time comes, we’ll go together”, said the American minister to reassure his allies. Miller said he spoke to Stoltenberg and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. “We continue to stand by his side as his government works towards a negotiated settlement for peace” with the Taliban.
Peace talks are underway between the Taliban and the Afghan government, following an agreement between Washington and the insurgents that confirms the withdrawal of American forces by mid-2021.
“Al-Qaida has been in Afghanistan for decades and we would be foolish to say they are going to leave tomorrow, explained a senior Pentagon official shortly before Miller’s announcement. The solution is to negotiate a power-sharing or some kind of agreement whereby the Taliban and the Afghan people can live side by side in peace. “
But the violence has only increased in recent months. A Nov. 2 attack on Kabul University left at least 22 people dead, most of them students. It was claimed by the IS group but the government accused the Taliban of being the instigators.