US President Donald Trump has said that the number of American troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan are set to be reduced drastically, with this being the first time he has mentioned specific numbers in the issue of military withdrawal.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Trump said that US soldiers in Iraq will be reduced to 2,000 while in Afghanistan they will be reduced to 4,000. “A lot of progress is being made,” he claimed in regards to US policy in the Middle East, adding that there will be an even more limited number in Syria to “guard the oil” in the oilfields in the east of the country.
The planned reductions, Trump said, will take place “very soon,” and come after an official revealed earlier this week that the president will soon be announcing a further withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
It also comes after a series of similar revelations last month, including a top US general reporting that US forces would be withdrawn over the next few months, Trump telling Iraqi President Mustafa Al-Kadhimi that US-led coalition forces would leave the country within three years, and an anonymous American official telling the UK-based news agency Reuters troops based in Iraq would be reduced by approximately a third.
Following the end of the US-led invasion of Iraq and the suppression of the insurgency, the US limited the number of its troops in the country and started a gradual withdrawal process. When the terror group Daesh emerged and took over large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014, however, the US again boosted its military presence and deployed around 5,200 soldiers to Iraq to fight the group.
Since the territorial defeat of Daesh, Trump announced that US troops would be withdrawn and began the process earlier this year. The Iraqi parliament itself voted on the withdrawal of US forces following the Washington’s assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani at the beginning of this year.
The plans for withdrawal are seen primarily as attempts by Trump to show that he is fulfilling election promises made four years ago, in which he guaranteed the withdrawal of US forces from the Middle East and to stop the “endless wars”. His efforts at military withdrawal are expected to serve his current election campaign for his second presidential term in office.