A day after President Donald Trump announced American troops were being withdrawn from Syria, officials revealed that he has also ordered the Pentagon to pull out half the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, according to several media reports.
More than 7,000 American troops will begin to return home within weeks, a U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report on the Afghanistan pullout.
Trump’s aim is to eventually withdraw all 14,000 troops in Afghanistan over the next several months, the Journal reported. Most of the troops are part of a NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.
Reports of the Afghanistan pullout come on the same day that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced he was resigning from the Trump administration in February. The decision was precipitated partly by Trump’s planned hasty withdrawal of troops in both Syria and Afghanistan.
The retired Marine general issued a pointed letter of resignation that discussed his differences with Trump over several issues, including what Mattis sees as the importance of strong international alliances.
“While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies,” Mattis wrote in his letter.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) immediately criticized the Afghanistan pullout, seeing it as “paving the way toward a second 9/11.”
Earlier this month, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told The Washington Post that he’s opposed to drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “In my judgment, leaving Afghanistan not only would create instability in South Asia ... but would give terrorist groups the space within which to plan and conduct operations against the American people, our homeland and our allies,” he said. “And that really is the problem we are trying to solve.”