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World

American troops in Afghanistan formally down to 2500

  • The United States military has met its goal of reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan to about 2500, as ordered by President Trump in November.
  • President-elect Biden has advocated retaining a small counter-terrorism force in Afghanistan, in an effort to ensure that extremist groups like Al-Qaeda are unable to launch attacks on the United States.
Updated 15 Jan 2021

WASHINGTON: The United States military has met its goal of reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan to about 2500, as ordered by President Trump in November.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump stated that troop levels in Afghanistan had reached a 19-year low, although he did not mention a specific troop number.

President-elect Biden has advocated retaining a small counter-terrorism force in Afghanistan, in an effort to ensure that extremist groups like Al-Qaeda are unable to launch attacks on the United States.

President Trump in his brief statement alluded to his longstanding desire to get out of Afghanistan entirely, stating that "I will always be committed to stopping the endless wars".

Despite the fact that senior military officials had cautioned against an abrupt reduction in troops in Afghanistan, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced on Nov. 17 that he was implementing Trump’s order.

As a result, military commanders scrambled to pull more than 1,500 troops out of the country in the last few weeks. At Trump’s order, commanders also cut U.S. troop levels in Iraq to 2,500 from about 3,000 in the same period.

The Afghanistan decision was seen by some as unnecessarily complicating the decision-making of the incoming administration. Trump at the time had refused to acknowledge that he had lost the election and would be ceding to Biden on Jan. 20. Some in Congress, including fellow Republicans, opposed Trump’s decision.

Under the National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress two weeks ago, the Pentagon was explicitly forbidden to use money from this year’s or last year’s budget on reducing the number of troops below 4,000 — or below the number that was in the country the day the bill was finalized, which was Jan. 1. Trump vetoed the measure, but both the House and Senate voted to override his veto.

Last month, when he met with Afghan officials in Kabul and with Taliban representatives in Qatar, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he emphasized to both sides that in order to give fledgling peace talks a chance, they must rapidly reduce levels of violence.