The United States plans to withdraw thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan by the November elections, as President Trump tries to make good on his 2016 campaign promise to get America out of “endless wars,” according to America’s top general in the Middle East.
“We’re on a glide slope to be at 4,500 by the November time frame, [sic] late October, November time frame,” Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a telephone interview in reference to Afghanistan. He specified that the timetable to the 4,500 level would be determined, in part, by the military’s ability to withdraw the heavy equipment out of the country. McKenzie added that the military will still be able to successfully conduct its mission.
“At 4,500 we’re still going to be able to accomplish the core tasks that we want to accomplish,” he said. “And we’ve shown more than ample goodwill and our willingness to demonstrate that we don’t want to be an occupying force in this country. But we do have strategic interests, vital interests, that compel us to be certain that these entities, such as al-Qaeda and ISIS, can’t be guests there to attack the United States.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper had said last month that troop levels in Afghanistan will drop below 5,000 troops before the election. Esper, too, highlighted the need to ensure that the United States is not “threatened by terrorists coming out of Afghanistan.”