The United States has reached the Trump administration’s goal to reduce American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 2,500 each, according to Pentagon chief Chris Miller on Friday.
“The drawdown of U.S. force levels in Iraq is reflective of the increased capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces,” Miller said in a statement on the Department of Defense’s website about the drawdown in Iraq. “We have long anticipated that the force level required to support Iraq’s fight against ISIS would decrease as Iraq’s capability to manage the threat from ISIS improves. Our ability to reduce force levels is evidence of real progress.”
Miller also announced the 2,500 troop level reduction in Afghanistan, saying it brings the United States “closer than ever to ending nearly two decades of war.” He said the U.S. remains in position to “ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to harbor those who seek to bring harm to the United States of America.”
Trump announced the troop drawdown last year, though the House and Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last month in a near-unanimous vote, which would keep more troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas like Germany.
“This force reduction is consistent with Operation Inherent Resolve’s (OIR) transition from major combat operations and does not equate to a change in U.S. policy,” Miller added Friday, noting that coalition forces are in Iraq to ensure the defeat of the ISIS terrorist group.
“We will continue to have a counterterrorism platform in Iraq to support partner forces with airpower and intelligence,” said Miller’s statement. “Most operations in Iraq were already being conducted by our Iraqi partners, enabled by U.S. and Coalition forces. We can continue to provide this support to our Iraqi partners at the reduced U.S. force level.”
A day prior, the White House released a statement from Trump that touted his military policies over the past four years—namely in Afghanistan, where American soldiers have been stationed for nearly 20 years.
The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan “are at a 19-year low,” said Trump in a statement on Thursday.
The president, since he declared his run for the presidency in 2015, has said he wants to withdraw troops from the Middle East. Before that, Trump was a critic of the 2003 invasion of Iraq under former President George W. Bush.
“Likewise,” the president continued, “Iraq and Syria are also at the lowest point in many years. I will always be committed to stopping the endless wars.”
Trump added: “It has been a great honor to rebuild our military and support our brave men and women in uniform. $2.5 trillion invested, including in beautiful new equipment—all made in the U.S.A.,” Trump said in a statement.
It appears, however, that some of Trump’s policies were thwarted by his administration officials.
Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, the U.S. envoy to Syria, admitted in November of last year that White House officials hid the numbers of troops that the United States had in Syria from the president, suggesting that it was done to keep troops in the country.
“We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there,” Jeffrey said in an interview, noting that the true number of troops in Syria was “a lot more than” the roughly two hundred troops Trump initially agreed to leave in Syria last year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.