According to a report from CNN, US military commanders are expecting an order from President Trump to begin further troop withdrawals in Afghanistan and Iraq.
CNN cites two anonymous US officials who say the Pentagon has already received a notice known as a “warning order” to prepare for troop drawdowns. The officials said the plan is to bring troop numbers down to 2,500 in Afghanistan and 2,500 in Iraq by January 15th. There are currently approximately 4,500 troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 troops in Iraq.
President Trump’s Pentagon shake-up that started with the firing of Mark Esper was reported to be related to disagreements over troop withdrawals. The US-Taliban peace deal paved the way for all foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by Spring 2021, but US officials regularly stress the withdrawal is “conditions-based.”
In October, President Trump said on Twitter that all US troops in Afghanistan “should” be home by Christmas, but the declaration never turned into an order. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has said the number of troops in Afghanistan will be down to 2,500 by early 2021.
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller sent a memo to the Pentagon last Friday that made a strong statement against “perpetual war” but also said the war against al-Qaeda “isn’t over.”