WASHINGTON – Acting Pentagon chief Christopher Miller said Tuesday that the United States would reduce its military presence in Afghanistan to 2,500 troops and 2,500 troops in Iraq by Jan 15.
The United States currently has approximately 4,500 soldiers in Afghanistan and more than 3,000 in Iraq.
"This decision by the president is based on the continued collaboration with his national security cabinet over the past few months, including ongoing discussions with myself and my colleagues across the US administration," said Miller at the Pentagon.
"And it was only this morning that I spoke to key congressional leaders and our allies and partners overseas to keep them informed of these plans given our shared approach," Miller said, adding that he was with NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg and Afghanistan spoke to President Ghani on Tuesday. "We went in together, we adapt together, and when the time is right we'll go together," Miller said.
Stoltenberg warned on Tuesday that leaving the war-torn country too early or in an uncoordinated manner could have unintended consequences for the world's largest military organization.
"Afghanistan runs the risk of becoming a platform again for international terrorists to plan and organize attacks on our home countries. And ISIS could rebuild the terror caliphate in Afghanistan that was lost in Syria and Iraq," said the NATO chief, referring to himself on militants of the Islamic state.
In 2003, NATO joined the international security effort in Afghanistan and currently has more than 7,000 soldiers in the country. NATO's security operation in Afghanistan began after the alliance first activated its mutual defense clause known as Article 5 following the 9/11 attacks.
Last week, Miller rose to the role of acting Secretary of Defense for the Pentagon after President Donald Trump suddenly resigned Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
In a message to Defense Department officials early Saturday morning, Miller said he was "tired of the war" and that it was time to end American conflicts in the Middle East.
"We are not a people of perpetual war – it is the opposite of everything we stand for that our ancestors fought for. All wars must end," wrote Miller, adding that the US "was on the verge of becoming Al Qaeda and its associated with defeating. "
"We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now it's time to come home," wrote Miller.
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division gather their equipment before boarding a CH-47F Chinook of the Task Force Flying Dragons or 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 25th Avn. Regiment, 16th Combat Avn. Brigade, in the Nawa valley, Kandahar province, Afghanistan,
Photo: U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt.Whitney Houston | FlickrCC
The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost US taxpayers more than $ 1.57 trillion since September 11, 2001, according to a Department of Defense report. The war in Afghanistan, which has turned into America's longest-running conflict, began 19 years ago and has cost US taxpayers $ 193 billion, according to the Pentagon.
Trump, who campaigned to end "ridiculous endless wars" in the Middle East in 2016, went on Twitter last month to announce that the American forces currently serving in Afghanistan will be home by Christmas.
At the time, it was unclear whether Trump tweeted an order or reiterated a long-standing election promise to address voters ahead of the US presidential election.
Earlier this year, the United States signed a peace agreement with the Taliban that would initiate a permanent ceasefire and reduce the US military's footprint from about 13,000 to 8,600 by mid-July. And by May 2021, all foreign armed forces would leave the war-torn country.
Trump previously directed the Pentagon to reduce U.S. forces in conflict areas.
In 2018, Trump tweeted that the United States would withdraw troops from Syria, a move that sent a shock wave through the Pentagon and contributed in part to the resignation of then-Defense Secretary James Mattis. Trump later overturned his decision to withdraw from Syria.
In May, Trump complained on Twitter that America's role in Afghanistan had been reduced to a "police force" rather than a "combat force".
When asked about the tweet from reporters during an event at the White House, Trump said the US could return to Afghanistan if necessary.
"We can always go back if we have to. If we have to go back, we will go back and romp again," Trump said in May.