The U.S. military is moving forward this month with Trump administration plans to sunset American involvement in Afghan and Iraqi ground conflict.
According to official remarks delivered Tuesday by Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., head of U.S. Central Command, a massive drawdown is set to take place this month that will see roughly 40 percent of 5,200 remaining American servicemen removed from Iraq, with thousands following closely behind in Afghanistan.
“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. “This decision is due to our confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces’ increased ability to operate independently.”
“The U.S. decision is a clear demonstration of our continued commitment to the ultimate goal, which is an Iraqi Security Force that is capable of preventing an ISIS resurgence and of securing Iraq’s sovereignty without external assistance,” the general added.
“The journey has been difficult, the sacrifice has been great, but the progress has been significant. Your mission is important and there is still much work to be done — so let’s get back to it.”
In Iraq today, @CENTCOM Commander Gen Frank McKenzie announced US reducing troop presence there this month from about 5,200 to 3,000 troops. Credits “great progress” by Iraqi Forces. Troop reduction also to be announced in Afghanistan, said Admin official.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) September 9, 2020
The remarks were delivered alongside Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Inad in celebration of a successful global coalition effort to defeat the Islamic State, Politico reported.
According to Yahoo! News, troops left behind in support of Iraqi military forces in light of that effort have come under increased threat numerous times this year as Iran-backed terror elements in the region stepped up bombing and rocket attacks in an attempt discourage continued U.S. presence in Iraq.
Far more aggressive with regard to Western influence in the Middle East at the outset of 2019, Iran was quieter throughout the spring and early summer, reportedly grappling with the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the outbreak, however, tensions between the U.S. and Iran flared, with military posturing and sabotage events on both sides leading to an Iran-backed siege on the American embassy in Baghdad beginning Dec. 31, 2019, and carrying on into the new year.
The resulting U.S. military killing of ranking Iranian general and reported embassy siege mastermind Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike on Jan. 3, in turn, provoked an international backlash, the Iraqi parliament’s motion for U.S. withdrawal and a series of Iranian military reactions.
According to USA Today, that Iranian reaction included several months of Iran-backed missile strikes on coalition military bases in Iraq, one of which claimed the life of two Americans and a British national.
Sporadic conflict escalations were not, however, enough to stop the administration from withdrawing its estimated 1,200 troops from Iraq — a notch in the belt of President Donald Trump, who has promised since before his election to halt America’s “endless wars” and interventionist foreign policy.
Establishment media sources confirmed with McKenzie that more than half of the 8,600 U.S. troops still deployed to Afghanistan will also be returning home this month, pending official announcement in the coming days.
Afghan war veteran Dan McKnight, founder of the national nonpartisan veterans advocacy organization Bring Our Troops Home, told The Western Journal on Wednesday that Middle East troop withdrawals of this scale have been a long time coming.
“It’s significant that we’re finally having a leader that’s willing to pull people out and draw back from this endless war in Afghanistan,” McKnight said. “We should have been gone by February of 2002. Every portion of the Authorization for Use of Military Force had been accomplished by February of 2002.
“President [George W.] Bush, his administration and Vice President Dick Cheney took their eyes off the prize and went into Iraq on false intelligence, making a huge blunder, and basically left us to squander in Afghanistan two decades.
“It’s time. It’s way past time — and we’re hoping that the remainder of the 4,000 troops who were still there will get home sometime this year too.”
This also tracks roughly with what Trump said in the Oval Office on Aug. 20, when he said the troop level in Afghanistan will go down to “about 4,000” in “a couple of months”
— Dave Brown (@dave_brown24) September 9, 2020
— Carla Babb (@CarlaBabbVOA) September 9, 2020
According to The New York Times, October will mark 19 years since ground operations began in and around the Islamic terror hotbed of Kandahar, Afghanistan, where U.S. intelligence saw Taliban and al-Qaida presence to be strongest in light of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Roughly 2,400 U.S. servicemen and women have died in the wider war in Afghanistan, and the bloodletting continued with 14 combat deaths by August 2019 making it the conflict’s deadliest year since 2014, the Washington Examiner reported.
McKnight told The Western Journal last November that, despite the sacrifice, many veterans had become cynical with regard to mission success as deployments were launched in the recent decade with hopes of reclaiming the lost Korangal and Pech River valleys, where he and his fellow soldiers had already seen victory in the mid-2000s.
At the time of the interview, the U.S. presence in Afghanistan totaled roughly 14,000.
The sense of urgency with which the administration seemed to be pursuing withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan led McKnight to praise the president for “boldly staying the course” despite bipartisan support for interventionist foreign policy in Washington.
“Every time [Trump] has said it’s time to bring home the troops in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he’s been obstructed. … He’s fighting opposition from his own party, he’s fighting opposition from the military-industrial complex and he’s fighting opposition from the Democrats to do what he knows is right,” McKnight said.
McKnight would go on to decry continued justification of the costly Middle Eastern conflicts by U.S. officials, who he claimed have been “moving the goal line” for years with regard to what constitutes victory.
“We went to war on a false premise,” he said. “We went there with an improper declaration. We went there without a policy or a procedure to win the war. And so we’re just there changing the mission and moving the goal line every day. Every new general that takes over goes in there with a new mission and a new false sense of hope, and absent of an actual definition of victory and strategy to achieve that victory, we shouldn’t send one more American soldier, sailor, airman or Marine over there.
“President Trump is finally doing what it’s going to take to bring them home.”
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