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Home / World News / US decision to reduce troops in Afghanistan, Iraq draws ire

US decision to reduce troops in Afghanistan, Iraq draws ire

US Government tells Pentagon to withdraw some soldiers from these two nations by Jan 15, just days before Joe Biden is expected to take charge as president.

world Updated: Nov 19, 2020, 02:14 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Washington
The US government on Tuesday announced that the number of American troops stationed in Afghanistan will be cut by half by mid-January.
The US government on Tuesday announced that the number of American troops stationed in Afghanistan will be cut by half by mid-January.(AP Photo | Representational Image)

The US government on Tuesday announced that the number of American troops stationed in Afghanistan will be cut by half by mid-January, drawing criticism from both Republicans and Democrats who warned that it would be a “mistake” and could imperil peace efforts in the country.

By January 15, five days before the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the US, the number of American forces in Afghanistan will come down from the current level of 4,500 to 2,500. The number of soldiers in Iraq will also be reduced, from the existing 3,000 to 2,500.

The Trump administration’s decision comes as part of the Republican president’s much debated pledge to bring America’s “endless wars” to an end.

Citing US casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq - 6,900 killed and 52,000 wounded - acting secretary of defence Christopher Miller told reporters, “I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump’s orders to continue our repositioning of forces from those two countries.”

 

Miller was not accompanied at the announcement by Mark Milley, the chairman of joint chiefs of staff, who had earlier dismissed reports about troop reductions as speculation.

Robert O’Brien, the National Security Adviser, told reporters that Trump hoped “that they will all come home safely - and in their entirety” by May.

That was an unusual projection to make as president-elect Biden would be in charge then and it would be his administration’s decision. There was no word from Biden or his team yet on the troop withdrawals.

Criticism of the move came swiftly, and from both the parties. Even close Republican allies were outraged. “I think it’s extremely important here in the next couple of months not to have any earthshaking changes with regard to defence and foreign policy,” Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the US Senate, told reporters. “I think a precipitous drawdown in either Afghanistan or Iraq would be a mistake.”

Tammy Duckworth, a Democratic senator who has served in Afghanistan and lost both her legs to combat wounds in Iraq, warned of adverse impact of the move on peace efforts. “We all want our troops to be brought home safely, but this announcement is a mistake. At a time when we are finally seeing serious peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Donald Trump is unilaterally taking one of our best bargaining chips off the table - and getting nothing in return.”

Meanwhile, rockets struck Baghdad on Tuesday with four landing inside the Green Zone, killing a child and wounding five people, signalling an end to an informal truce announced by Iran-backed militias in October. One of the rockets struck close to Iraq’s National Security Service, 600m from the US embassy.

(With inputs from Agencies)
ht epaper

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