Plans for Afghanistan

April 1, 2021
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News of a U.S. troop drawdown overseas comes under controversy here at home.

Here’s what to know

The Latest

The Pentagon announced U.S. troop levels will be reduced in Afghanistan and Iraq – leaving roughly 2500 troops in each country.

U.S. troops will continue to “defend” embassies and “the other agencies of the U.S. gov’t doing important work…They’ll defend our diplomats and they’ll deter our foes.” White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien

“I believe these additional reductions of American troops from terrorist areas are a mistake… (The Taliban have) done nothing — met no condition — that would justify this cut.”

Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, on the troop drawdown — from an est. 4,500 soldiers in Afghanistan to 2,500, & from an est. 3,000 troops to 2,500 in Iraq. The U.S. has held "peace talks" w/the Taliban & Afghan gov't.

Context To Consider:

  • The Taliban currently control more territory than at any point in the war.
  • The Taliban provided “safe haven” to al-Qaeda to train and plan the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Reports: The relationship between the two groups remains strong.
  • The Islamic State has also made inroads in Afghanistan (at odds w/the Taliban).

Context to Consider: Iraq

“Our goal is to keep ISIS at a level where ultimately they’ll be able to be handled by local security elements with minimal assistance from any other entity — to include external entities like the coalition, NATO, or us.”

Gen. Frank McKenzie, U.S. Central Command in September, continuing that Iraq was a "little ways away from that" but improved from past years.

The Timeline

  • Pres. Trump promised to reduce American troops overseas as part of his platform to end “endless wars.”
  • According to the Pentagon’s announcement, troops would return home by January 15th – 5 days before inauguration day for the next presidential term.
  • This move may present a challenge to an administration pursuing a different strategy.

Why This Matters:

  • Thousands of Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq & Afghanistan. Tens of thousands injured. Millions of American families impacted by deployments.
  • Debate continues about how the U.S. can best confront, defend against & ultimately destroy Islamic terrorism.
  • Lingering question: What does it take to win? What’s the most effective use of U.S. forces?

Early reports from Iraq: two rockets were fired at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad after news of the drawdown was announced. Read more about why on our source page and see our stories on Afghanistan & Iraq over the last several years – including how the pandemic has impacted U.S. strategy to bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Pentagon to cut troop levels to 2,500 in Iraq, Afghanistan READ MORE

Rocket Attack on Embassy: READ MORE

Insight on the link between the Taliban and Al Qaeda:

Mohammad Hanif is the perfect example of how Al Qaeda has integrated Pakistani jihadists into its rank and file. He was killed in Farah province. Of course, if you listen to the Taliban, Al Qaeda doesn't even exist in Afghanistan…

— Bill Roggio (@billroggio) November 12, 2020

Check out our SmartHER stories on Afghanistan:

Afghanistan at the start of 2020
How COVID has impacted the war in Afghanistan
The Taliban is not designated a terrorist organization – A look at who is, and who isn’t.
Peace talks with the group we’ve been fighting: Why is the U.S. negotiating with the Taliban?
Russian Bounties on U.S. troops?

by Jenna Lee,