On the same day that President Trump announced he would withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, officials in the White House say the administration will also withdraw 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Returning the U.S. to a strategy of isolation rather than intervention has been one of the planks of Trump’s “America First” platform since his 2016 campaign. But until now, the president hasn’t made good on promises to end U.S. involvement in Middle Eastern wars.
“I think [the troop reductions show] how serious the president is about wanting to come out of conflicts,” a senior U.S. official told the Journal. “I think he wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”
The war in Afghanistan, which began when U.S. and NATO troops invaded the country 17 years ago, is still grimly violent, with over 25,000 Afghani troops dead since America ended combat operations in 2014. U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan are more frequent now than at any time since the height of the war, and 14 American troops died there in 2018.
Military officials say that recent peace talks with the Taliban have been encouraging. It’s unclear whether the withdrawal of troops will hurt or help that effort.
Trump tweeted earlier today about his decision to withdraw from Syria and the criticism the decision drew from politicians like Senator Lindsey Graham.
As Trump’s troop reductions were made public, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his resignation today, citing Trump’s Middle East policy. In his resignation letter to the president, Mattis wrote, “you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”