United States troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan have reached a two-decade low, according to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller in a Friday announcement from the Pentagon.
Fulfilling a central campaign promise, President Donald Trump‘s outgoing administration has effectively reduced U.S. forces to 2,500 service members in each country.
Though the U.S. counterterrorism policy remains unchanged, “increased capabilities” of Iraqi forces against the threat of the Islamic State accounted for the reduction of troop levels in Iraq, according to the statement.
“We have long anticipated that the force level required to support Iraq’s fight against ISIS would decrease as Iraq’s capability to manage the threat from ISIS improves. Our ability to reduce force levels is evidence of real progress,” Miller said.
In addition, Miller noted that the ultimate goal is to reduce troop levels in Afghanistan to zero by May of 2021, which remains contingent upon whether the peace talks between the United States and Afghanistan will continue to progress under the incoming Biden administration. (RELATED: Taliban, Afghan Government Reach First Deal In 19 Years To Pursue Peace)
“Today, the United States is closer than ever to ending nearly two decades of war and welcoming in an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process to achieve a political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” Miller said in the statement.
In light of the upcoming presidential transition, Mohammad Naeem, a senior spokesman for the Taliban’s Doha political office, urged the Biden administration to honor the US-Afghan peace deal set in motion by the Trump administration.
“The lack of complete implementation of the agreement can affect the ongoing process of negotiations,” Naeem said Monday, according to Bloomberg.
1/2 The withdrawal of other US forces from Afghanistan, which was announced by the US yesterday, is a good advancement and practical measure.
Undoubtedly, the practice of the agreement signed between the IEA and the US is in the benefit of both countries and nations.
— Dr.M.Naeem (@IeaOffice) January 16, 2021
As the Biden administration is set to inherit the ongoing peace talks, it remains to be seen whether this pace will continue. However, earlier on Monday Biden’s incoming national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, maintained that the new administration is planning to support “good-faith negotiations” with Afghanistan.