Trump mulling mass pullout of troops from Afghanistan – reports
US President Donald Trump has reportedly "lost all patience" and ordered the Pentagon to look into options to reduce the 14,000-strong US contingent in Afghanistan, defying his generals' advice, according to multiple media.
Trump has grown increasingly frustrated over the Afghan stalemate, pushing for the end of the 17-year-long US campaign in the country over the past several weeks, ABC News reported, citing a US official.
"What are we doing there? We've been there all these years," Trump reportedly told an ally at a meeting on Wednesday, Reuters reported. On the same day, Trump is said to have discussed the potential pullout or a considerable reduction of the US force with his outgoing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and his hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton.
The commander-in-chief, however, has not found support for his withdrawal plan, according to ABC. Hours before the deliberations were reported by US media, Mattis handed in his resignation letter, citing differences of views with the president.
There have been conflicting reports regarding when the potential pullout could take place.
While ABC News, citing a US official, reported that troops might leave the war-torn country "in the coming weeks," NBC News, citing two other defense officials, said no concrete decision has yet been made and that the Pentagon is likely to present its report "shortly after the new year."
The reports come at a time when part of the American public and even Trump's allies in the Republican Party have been incensed over his decision to withdraw some 2,000 American troops from Syria after declaring "victory" over Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) there.
The possible scale-down in the American war on terror in Afghanistan, which has dragged on since 2001, has caught many off-guard and elicited cautious praise from some of Trump's usual opponents, like Hillary Clinton’s former foreign policy spokesman Jesse Lehrich, who called it “a lot less stupid” than withdrawing 2,000 troops from Syria.
surely it won't be done responsibly, but a drawdown of the 14,000 troops in Afghanistan –– where an 18-year war has yielded little progress –– is a lot less stupid than withdrawing the 2,000 troops in Syria who helped crush ISIS's caliphate & are still serving an essential role.— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) December 20, 2018
One of Trump’s most vocal critics, Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu, gave Trump a rare thumbs-up, tweeting: “I don’t care who the President is; if @POTUS gets out of endless wars, I will support that action.”
I have long opposed using military force in Syria, Afghanistan & Yemen for many reasons, including lack of a strategy & lack of an achievable desired end state using force. I don't care who the President is; if @POTUS gets us out of endless wars, I will support that action.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) December 20, 2018
The apparent steps away from years of militaristic US policy risk alienating many of Trump’s steadfast allies, baffled by his recent decisions.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who sparred with Trump over the Syrian pullout, warned that an abrupt withdrawal is “a high-risk strategy” that could pave the way to “a second 9/11.”
The conditions in Afghanistan – at the present moment – make American troop withdrawals a high risk strategy. If we continue on our present course we are setting in motion the loss of all our gains and paving the way toward a second 9/11.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 20, 2018
The rumors of an imminent Afghan withdrawal come shortly after General Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that another 9/11-scale attack on American people would be possible if US forces leave Afghanistan.
The general said that US troops are essential to containing the Taliban, which is believed to control or have a presence in 44 percent of the country’s territory.
Over 2,400 US soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, a number that is now comparable to the death toll from the actual 9/11 attacks.
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