The Trump administration on Thursday ordered the withdrawal of 7,000 American troops from Afghanistan, the day after an abrupt announcement of a pullout of 2,000 troops from Syria, which, together with other factors, triggered the resignation of defence secretary James Mattis.
An estimated 7,000 American troops will still remain in Afghanistan after the withdrawal, but only under a cloud of uncertainty given the nature and timing of the decision, coming just hours after the resignation of the country’s top Pentagon official.
There have been no formal announcements, not even a Tweet from president, who announced both the Syria pullout and Mattis’s departure in posts on the microblogging site over Wednesday and Thursday. But the decision appears to be in line with the president’s long-apparent distaste for these engagements. Afghanistan is now the longest American battle yet, lasting 17 years.
A spokesman for Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani said via social media, “If they withdraw from Afghanistan it will not have a security impact because in the last 4 1/2 years the Afghans have been in full control.”
But the backlash for President Trump at home was unsparing, just like the reaction to the Syria pullout, if not worse. Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of President Trump, wrote on Twitter, “The conditions in Afghanistan — at the present moment — make American troop withdrawals a high risk strategy. If we continue on our present course we are setting in motion the loss of all our gains and paving the way toward a second 9/11.”
Graham had called the Syrian pullout a “disaster” and a “stain on the honor of the United States (for abandoning allies, as the US has done many times before).
Trump had pushed back then, and has not yet shown any inclination towards addressing Senator Graham’s concerns, not publicly at least. The president had campaigned against these long wars and had vowed to end them on election. His reasoning, as he said in a Tweet on Syria pullout and which can shift, was the United States cannot be the policeman of the world and it should not be spending money and spilling American blood fighting wars for others.
An administration official said, according The Wall Street Journal which first reported the Afghanistan pullout decision, “I think it shows how serious the president is about wanting to come out of conflicts. I think he wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”
First Published: Dec 21, 2018 22:58 IST
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