By Tristan Jung

United States is preparing to swiftly withdraw thousands of personnel from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia by mid-January, according to a statement from Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller. The policy has been backed by President Trump and is expected to take place even as the Biden administration is set to take power in January. 

The most significant withdrawals will take place in Afghanistan – the current deployment of 4,500 soldiers is expected to be cut by at least 50%. The ongoing US involvement in the War in Afghanistan will enter its 20th year in 2021, but the Taliban insurgency has shown no signs of ending. Violence has increased in recent months while peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have stalled. 

In Iraq, where the US has been helping in the fight against ISIS, the Pentagon is planning to reduce troop levels from 3,000 to 2,500. Unlike in Afghanistan, the Iraq troop deployment has been anticipated and arranged with the Iraqi government. The 750 soldiers in Somalia leading counterterrorism operations are expected to be completely removed from the country. A recent New York Times article has raised concerns about the fate of the US-trained Somali commando force after the withdrawal. 

The withdrawals will leave the minimum amount of personnel that the Pentagon has recommended for counterterrorism operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper criticized the planned withdrawal in a memo before his firing, according to CNN

The Military Times reports that the speed and scope of the withdrawals drew mixed reactions in Congress, with some praising the end to America’s long conflicts and others criticizing the President’s foreign policy. Politico reports that the German foreign minister criticized the withdrawals as harmful to security.