US completes troop-level layoffs in Afghanistan, Iraq> US Department of Defense> Defense Department News

Troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan have fallen, Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller announced today.

There are now 2,500 US service members in Iraq and 2,500 in Afghanistan. This is the lowest number of US troops in Afghanistan since operations began there in 2001.

The reductions were long-standing goals of the Trump administration.

The withdrawal of US forces in Iraq follows the successful Iraqi military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“The reduction in US force levels in Iraq reflects the increased capabilities of the Iraqi security forces,” Miller said in a written statement. “We have long predicted that the level of strength required to support Iraq’s fight against ISIS would decline as Iraq’s ability to deal with the ISIS threat improves. Our ability to reduce the level of strength is evidence of real progress.”

The acting secretary stressed that the reduction in US force does not mean a change in US policy in the country or region. US forces will continue to work with Iraqi security forces and forces from the anti-ISIS coalition to ensure the lasting defeat of the terrorist group.

Iraqi government officials know ISIS remains a threat, and the presence of US and coalition forces is helping to build Iraqi forces and deter the rebuilding of the terrorist network in the country, Miller said.

“We will continue to have an anti-terrorism platform in Iraq to support partner forces with the Air Force and intelligence,” the acting secretary said. “Most of the operations in Iraq were already carried out by our Iraqi partners, made possible by US and coalition forces. We can continue to provide this support to our Iraqi partners at the reduced US force level.”

The number of US troops in Afghanistan has also reached 2,500. At its peak in 2011, there were 98,000 U.S. troops in the country.

“Today, the United States is closer than ever to ending nearly two decades of war and welcoming in an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process to achieve a political solution and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” Miller said.

Last August, there were 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, according to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission. Miller said the 2,500 force would give the commanders “what they need to keep America, our people and our interests safe.”

The US forces are working with NATO allies and partners. There are 38 nations contributing forces – about 10,000 – to the Resolute Support Mission.

Al-Qaeda used Afghanistan to plan and train for the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States, which killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Taliban shielded the terrorist group and US forces took up the fight against the terrorists who threatened the United States.

U.S. forces will continue to carry out the counter-terrorism mission and the mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces, Miller said.

“Continued fulfillment of these two complementary missions seeks to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to house those seeking to bring harm to the United States,” he said.

The reduction in strength shows US support for the Afghan peace process negotiated with the Taliban.

“Going forward while the department continues with planning capable of further reducing U.S. troop levels to zero by May 2021, such future withdrawals remain conditional,” Miller wrote. “All sides must demonstrate their commitment to promoting the peace process. In addition, the United States will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure the protection of our homeland, our citizens and our interests.”

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