President Donald Trump has ordered an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced Tuesday.
Miller’s announcement confirmed reports from Monday that Trump planned to make the withdrawal. Miller says the administration aims to have just 2,500 troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan by January 15, for a total of 5,000. The U.S. currently has well over 10,000 troops deployed in the two countries, down from more than 150,000 during the Iraq War in the mid-2000s. (RELATED: National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien Pledges ‘Very Professional Transition’ To Biden Administration)
“This decision by the president is based on continuous engagement with his national security cabinet over the past several months including ongoing discussions with me and my colleagues across the United States government,” Miller said at the Pentagon. “And just this morning, I spoke with key leaders in Congress as well as our allies and partners abroad to update them on these plans in light of our shared approach.”
“We went in together, we adjust together and when the time is right, we will leave together,” Miller added.
O’Brien just spoke at WH on withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan & Iraq, leaving 2,500 in each country by Jan. 15. Remaining troops would defend diplomats & facilities.
“By May it is President Trump’s hope that they will come home safely and in their entirety.”
— Chris Johnson (@chrisjohnson82) November 17, 2020
The announcement came less than a week after Trump performed what some called a “near-total decapitation” of civilian leadership at the Defense Department. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper had repeatedly butted heads with Trump on a number of issues ahead of the 2020 election, and he also opposed the drawdown of troops in the Middle East.
Trump announced Esper’s firing on Twitter last week before purging several other like-minded officials within the DoD. Trump appointed Miller — one of the first on-the-ground heroes of the Iraq war — in Esper’s place, alongside Ret. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor, one of the Iraq War’s most ardent critics.
Esper and Trump had clashed publicly on a number of issues in the lead up to the November 3 election, including the renaming of military bases currently named after Confederate military figures, as well as the deployment of active duty U.S. troops to cities experiencing unrest this summer.
It was rumored throughout this fall that Trump planned to fire Esper after the election, though now Esper says it was his plan to resign regardless of the election outcome.