Esper Wants Afghan Drawdown to Focus on China

Competition with China is a 'higher priority'

The withdrawal of some 4,000 US troops from Afghanistan, expected to be formally announced soon, isn’t just a drawdown for its own sake. Rather, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he wants to focus on competition with China, which he views as “higher priority.”

Esper says the troops will be sent to the Indo-Pacific “to face off our greatest challenge in terms of the great power competition that’s vis-a-vis China.” It’s not clear where in the Indo-Pacific those troops will end up.

Nor is it apparent what 4,000 more troops scattered around China’s periphery would really do in a challenge sense. China, after all, has the world’s second largest military and is focused almost exclusively on control and defense of its own region.

This would be just one of many, many adventures the Pentagon has decided it is participating in, and between the Indo-Pacific, Iran’s periphery, and eastern Europe, the US is committing a lot of troops to standing around doing non-specific things close to major rivals that they envision future wars against.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.