The Trump administration on Wednesday announced that 2,200 American troops will be pulled from Iraq, adding that top officials are looking to announce a draw down in Afghanistan in the next few days.
Central Command Commander Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said the withdrawal means will drop the U.S. troop level in Iraq to 3,000 and will happen by the end of September. “This reduced footprint allows us to continue advising and assisting our Iraqi partners in rooting out the final remnants of ISIS in Iraq and ensuring its enduring defeat,” McKenzie said, according to CNN.
“Over the last seven or eight months, we have had to devote resources to self-protection that we would otherwise devote for the counter-ISIS fight and we’ve had to pull back and our partners have had to pull back,” he said. “At the same time we’ve done things to harden our positions to make it more difficult for Iran to attack us in Iraq — but it has had an effect,” the general said.
Meanwhile, a senior administration official “told reporters on Tuesday to also expect an announcement on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in a couple days,” CNN reported.
CNN previously reported that the Trump administration plans to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan from 8,600 to 4,500, which would be the lowest number since the very earliest days of the Afghanistan war.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump vowed to draw down troops and get the U.S. out of “endless wars.” The new move means more than 40% of U.S. troops currently in Iraq will leave in the next few weeks.
The move will also allow Trump to hit his Democratic opponent Joe Biden for voting in favor of the Iraq War in 2002 as a senator. The president has taken aim at Biden of late.
“Unlike previous administrations, I have kept America out of new wars and our troops are coming home,” Trump said last month while accepting the Republican presidential nomination at the White House. Trump also told reporters late last month that “we look forward to the day when we don´t have to be there.”
McKenzie, who made the announcement alongside the Iraqi Minister of Defense, stressed the drawdown shows “our confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces’ increased ability to operate independently.”
The “ultimate goal,” the general said, is for Iraq to be able to prevent “an ISIS resurgence and of securing Iraq’s sovereignty without external assistance.”
The U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 under President George W. Bush, and at the height of the war in 2007, America had about 175,000 troops in Iraq. More than 3,400 Americans have been killed in action in Iraq, the Department of Defense reports.
In 2011, President Obama declared an end to the Iraq War but then sent more Americans to Iraq in 2014 to fight ISIS.
“The journey has been difficult, the sacrifice has been great, but the progress has been significant,” McKenzie said.