President Trump will cut in half the American military’s presence in Afghanistan in the coming months, a withdrawal of some 7,000 troops, with the first soldiers coming home in a matter of weeks, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The drawdown of the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan comes shortly after Trump tweeted earlier this week that he was looking to get out of the still simmering Syrian conflict. The move in Afghanistan, the Journal reports, “will come as the first stage of a phased drawdown and the start of a conclusion to the 17-year war that officials say could take at least many months.”
Taken together, the drawdown of American troops in what have been two long-running conflicts marks a significant shift in American foreign policy. On Thursday, Trump’s Defense Secretary James Mattis, in what is likely not an unrelated move, offered his resignation. “In both the Afghan and Syrian conflicts, Mr. Trump earlier this year voiced an interest in bringing troops home within the year or less, moves that were widely opposed within the U.S. national security establishment,” according to the Journal. “The Pentagon over the last weekend fended off a push by Mr. Trump to start bringing troops home from Afghanistan starting in January, officials said.”
The 14,000 troops currently in Afghanistan are deployed to train Afghan forces and conduct counterterrorism operations.