The Pentagon announced on Friday that it has reached its goal of bringing troop number in Afghanistan down to 2,500, the lowest US presence in the country since the war began in 2001.
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller also confirmed that troop numbers in Iraq were down to 2,500. He announced the drawdowns back in November. At the time, there were about 4,000 troops in Afghanistan and 3,000 in Iraq.
The Afghanistan drawdown was completed despite an amendment in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that sought to block it. A Pentagon spokesman said on Friday that President Trump signed a waiver to complete the withdrawal.
“Convention dictates that reducing troop levels, associated equipment and adjusting associated force protection requirements across a country-wide combat zone is not something that can be paused overnight without increasing risk to the force and core mission goals,” Army Major Rob Lodewick said, according to Reuters.
The US-Taliban peace deal paved the way for a complete US withdrawal from Afghanistan by Spring 2021. “Moving forward, while the Department continues with planning capable of further reducing US troop levels to zero by May of 2021, any such future drawdowns remain conditions-based,” Miller said in a statement.
It’s not clear if the incoming Biden administration will follow through with full withdrawal from Afghanistan. While on the campaign trail, Joe Biden said he could not promise a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, Syria, or Iraq. He said he supports keeping a small counterterrorism force in each country.