U.S. Drawing Up Plans to Withdraw Troops From Iraq, Afghanistan

Orders would call for U.S. to draw down number of troops in both countries to 2,500 by Jan. 15

President-elect Joe Biden has said he plans to go back into the Iran nuclear deal he helped establish in 2015. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains why doing so will not be as simple as it sounds. Photo: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON—President Trump is expected to order the Pentagon to withdraw more forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, furthering his promise to end U.S. involvement in world conflicts and defying many Republicans who believe a precipitous withdrawal would amount to a strategic stumble.

The orders, which could come by Tuesday, would call for the U.S. military to draw down the number of troops in both countries to roughly 2,500 each by Jan. 15, five days before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. The Pentagon’s Joint Staff is expected to deliver the order in the coming days to U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Military planners there will draft the specifics of those plans.

There are currently about 5,000 troops in Afghanistan and more than 3,000 in Iraq. There are no current plans to draw down the force of about 1,000 troops from Syria, officials said.

The cuts to the deployment in both countries advances Mr. Trump’s desire to end what he has called “endless foreign wars,” even if he won’t have met that goal completely before he leaves office Jan. 20. They amount to a compromise within the administration between those who believe pulling forces out quickly could imperil the remaining troops and equipment and undercut U.S. interests in the region, and those who want to end the wars by drawing all forces out as quickly as possible.

The expected action would leave residual forces on the ground in both countries and would shield Mr. Trump from criticism should the move create more instability in the regions.

To Read the Full Story

Continue reading your article with
a WSJ membership

View Membership Options