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Pentagon Will Cut Troop Levels to 2,500 in Afghanistan, Iraq


On Tuesday, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced thousands of US troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump's orders to continue our repositioning of forces from those two countries," Miller said.  "By January 15th, 2021, our forces, their size in Afghanistan will be 2,500 troops. Our force size in Iraq will also be 2,500 by that same date."

The announcement of a troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq comes at the same time as White House talks of potential military action against Iran.  

Defense analyst Michael O'Hanlon tells CBN News those two policies pull in polar opposite directions, and he doesn't think either one would be particularly effective.

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O'Hanlon says while the president can celebrate significantly decreasing troop numbers in the Middle East, he cannot end the war and a rushed drawdown could be dangerous.

"To go from 4,500 to 2,500 in two months I think is abrupt and will probably require us to leave some bases improperly defended," O'Hanlon said.  "So, it could leave American servicemen and women at risk."

Something echoed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). "A rapid US withdrawal from Afghanistan could both hurt our allies and delight people who wish us harm," McConnell said. 

The New York Times reports that last week in the Oval Office, the president talked to key advisors about options to take action against Iran's main nuclear site in the coming weeks. To that, O'Hanlon says it's not unusual for a president to stay informed of options, but here's what is unusual.

"I have not heard anyone in the White House complain that this was an unauthorized leak," he said. "In other words, Iran may think that we're going soft and he wants the Iranians to hear that at least as long as he's still in the White House they better not assume that he will keep his powder dry."

O'Hanlon doubts the president wants to leave an incoming Biden administration with a brand-new problem. Rather, he believes, Trump wants to send a message to Tehran.

He also notes right now the president can hang his hat on at least three positive legacies: 

  • The US military is stronger than before his administration.
  • He's not started any new wars or accelerated existing ones.
  • He's been careful not to destabilize any ongoing operations.  

O'Hanlon says he'll be watching closely to see if that third claim changes in the coming weeks.

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