The White House announced Tuesday that it will pull thousands of troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan by Jan. 15. A force of 2,500 service members will remain in both countries, but the Trump administration aims to have all remaining troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan by Spring 2021.
"By May, it is President Trump's hope that they will all come home safely — and in their entirety," national security adviser Robert O'Brien said. "I want to reiterate that this policy is not new. This has been the president's policy since he took office."
Nearly 3,000 lives were lost in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and an additional 7,000 American service members have been killed in the nearly 20 years of armed conflict since. Trump had promised during his 2016 campaign that he would end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But, the drawdown worries some military leaders. Peace talks with the Taliban appear to be stalled and attacks are on the rise in Afghanistan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is also concerned about reducing the number of boots on the ground in such a tumultuous time.
"I think it is extremely important here in the next couple of months not to have any earthshaking changes with regard to defense and foreign policy," McConnell said. "I think a precipitous drawdown in either Afghanistan or Iraq would be a mistake."
Troop levels had surged to a high of more than 100,000 until Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2011. Shortly after, President Barack Obama began withdrawing troops from the Middle East and numbers have continued to decline in years since.