Trump to cut number of troops in Afghanistan in half

Officials say US military has been ordered to begin planning to withdraw about half the troops in Afghanistan.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

The US military has been ordered to begin planning to withdraw about half the troops in Afghanistan, a US defense official told CNN on Thursday.

The official said planning is underway, and it could take months to withdraw the nearly 7,000 troops.

The decision was made Tuesday, at the same time as President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the US military from Syria, according to the report.

Several US defense officials told CNN that Trump wants to draw down US troops in Afghanistan. Two administration officials told CNN that Trump wants the plans drawn up in hopes he could announce the drawdown in his State of the Union speech, which is traditionally at the end of January or early February.

According to the report, the moves on Syria and Afghanistan precipitated Defense Secretary James Mattis' resignation announcement earlier in the day.

The US has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, most of which are present as part of a larger NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. Any withdrawal would be complicated by the fact that the United States is part of NATO's Resolute Support mission.

Trump has repeatedly made his frustration with the continued military presence in Afghanistan clear.

Outlining his strategy for the country in an August 2017 address, the President said, "I share the American people's frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money -- and, most importantly, lives -- trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations."

Though the casualty rate for US troops is far lower than it was earlier in the war, Americans are still losing their lives 17 years after it began. While the Taliban is unable to take major cities or towns, the Afghan security forces, despite receiving US support, are still unable to put an end to the insurgency.

US troops have continued to suffer casualties this year, even though they are largely serving in a supporting role, with local Afghan forces doing most of the fighting.