President Donald Trump has decided to pull roughly half of the American troops from Afghanistan within the next several weeks, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
Between 14,000 and 15,000 U.S. troops are currently serving in Afghanistan to help train and advise Afghan troops and police and to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups in the country. Trump is withdrawing 7,000 of those troops, according to the Wall Street Journal.
As has become customary, U.S. military officials at the Pentagon and Afghanistan had no information to provide about a decision that could affect thousands of U.S. troops. The White House did not provide a comment for this story.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted on Thursday that he had just returned from Afghanistan, where ISIS is still a threat and local forces are unable defeat the terrorist group.
Any troop withdrawal from Afghanistan should be based on conditions on the ground, tweeted Graham, who is normally an ardent Trump supporter.
“The conditions in Afghanistan – at the present moment – make American troop withdrawals a high risk strategy,” Graham tweeted. “If we continue on our present course we are setting in motion the loss of all our gains and paving the way toward a second 9/11.”
When Trump took office, he authorized sending roughly 3,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2017; however, NBC reported in November that the president wants to pull all troops from Afghanistan before the next presidential election.
News of the possible drawdown comes a day after Trump announced that roughly 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria would be coming home – a move that promoted Defense Secretary Mattis to resign on Thursday, the New York Times reported.
In his resignation letter, Mattis did not mention Afghanistan or Syria, but said the president has the right to “have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours.”
Leaving Afghanistan would be a clear victory for the Taliban, Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Task & Purpose on Nov. 28.