U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, Iraq drop

Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller walks with Lt. Gen. John Deedrick, Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan after arriving to Kabul, Afghanistan, Dec. 22, 2020. On Jan. 15, 2021, Miller announced that a previously announced troop drawdown had been completed. (Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

by Stuart Ibberson, editor
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced Jan. 15, 2021, that the reduced U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq, announced by President Trump in November, had been reached.

In a statement, Miller said, “The United States has reduced the force levels in Iraq to 2,500 as directed by President Trump, and as I announced on Nov. 17, 2020.”

“The drawdown of U.S. force levels in Iraq is reflective of the increased capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces. We have long anticipated that the force level required to support Iraq’s fight against ISIS would decrease as Iraq’s capability to manage the threat from ISIS improves. Our ability to reduce force levels is evidence of real progress.”

Miller emphasized that the force reduction consistent with Operation Inherent Resolve’s transition from major combat operations and does not equate to a change in U.S. policy.

“U.S. and Coalition forces remain in Iraq to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS,” he said. “The government of Iraq and the U.S. government agree that ISIS remains a threat and that a U.S. and coalition presence remains vital. We will continue to have a counterterrorism platform in Iraq to support partner forces with airpower and intelligence.”

In a separate statement regarding troop levels in Afghanistan, Miller said the number of U.S. troops in the country had reached 2,500.

“With a force of 2,500, commanders have what they need to keep America, our people and our interests safe,” Miller said. “Working alongside our NATO allies and partners, the United States will continue to execute both our counterterrorism mission and the train, advise and assist mission in support of Afghan Security Forces working to secure peace in their country. Continued fulfillment of these two complementary missions seeks to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to harbor those who seek to bring harm to the United States of America.”

Miller said the goal is to have no U.S. troops by May 2021, but that was dependent on conditions “on the ground.”

“This force reduction is an indication of the United States’ continued support towards the Afghan peace process and our adherence to commitments made in both the U.S.-Taliban agreement and the U.S.-Afghanistan Joint Declaration,” Miller said. “Moving forward, while the Department continues with planning capable of further reducing U.S. troop levels to zero by May of 2021, any such future drawdowns remain conditions-based. All sides must demonstrate their commitment to advancing the peace process. Further, the United States will continue to take any action necessary to ensure protection of our homeland, our citizens and our interests.”

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