Senate Majority Mitch McConnell broke ranks with President Trump on Monday to oppose a rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East.
In a rare display, McConnell publicly challenged the Trump administration’s intent to reportedly remove troops from Afghanistan and Iraq – dwindling numbers to just 2,500 in each country.
‘The consequences of a premature American exit would likely be even worse than President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq back in 2011, which fueled the rise of ISIS and a new round of global terrorism,’ McConnell argued from the Senate floor.
‘It would be reminiscent of the humiliating American departure from Saigon in 1975. We’d be abandoning our partners in Afghanistan.’
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (picturer) pushed back on the Trump administration’s plans to remove troops from the MIddle East, comparing it to the ‘humiliating’ departure from Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War
Reports have indicated that Trump wanted to pull troops out of the Middle East, where soldiers have remained since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The Afghanistan War has emerged as the longest conflict even fought by U,S, forces, and Trump echoed Barack Obama’s initial enthusiasm in bringing troops home.
McConnell agreed that ‘all wars must end,’ but insisted a withdrawal at this very moment was not only disadvantageous, but dangerous.
‘The question is now how they end and whether the terms on which they end are favorable or unfavorable to the security and interests of the United States. And nothing about the circumstances we face today suggest that if we lose resolve, the terrorists will simply leave us alone,’ he said.
Unlike ten years ago, McConnell said, ‘we do not have hundreds of thousands of soldiers engaged in combat abroad.
‘We’re not an occupying force. Today our limited American military presence in the Middle East is supporting local forces and enabling multinational efforts.
‘We’re playing a limited but important role in defending American national security and American interests against terrorists who would like nothing more than for the most powerful force for good in the world to simply pick up our ball and go home. They would love that.’
U.S. and NATO troops arrive at the site of a car bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan September 24, 2017
McConnell offered sympathies to the families of the 7,000 troops overseas, but maintained that a rapid withdrawal would only come back to bite the U.S.
‘There’s no American who does not wish the war in Afghanistan against terrorists and their enablers had already been conclusively won. But that does not change the actual choice before us now,’ he said.
‘A rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan now would hurt our allies and delight the people who wish us harm. Violence affecting Afghans is still rampant.’
He added that drawing out troops could ’embolden the Taliban’ and ‘a disorganized retreat would jeopardize the track record of major success this administration has worked to compile.’
McConnell’s dissent mirrored those of Republicans in Congress, who’ve contended that removing forces could jeopardize peace negotiations and U.S. security.
Few politicians have offered public support to Trump’s plans, but Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, pushed his full weight behind the President.
‘Reminder to those saying withdrawing troops may cause a “clash” with Generals/Pentagon: there is only one Commander in Chief, it is @realDonaldTrump and when he orders the troops out of Afghanistan, the only proper answer is “Yes sir,” ‘ he wrote on Twitter.
Rand Paul: ‘Reminder to those saying withdrawing troops may cause a “clash” with Generals/Pentagon: there is only one Commander in Chief, it is @realDonaldTrump and when he orders the troops out of Afghanistan, the only proper answer is “Yes sir.’
This latest clash over the Middle East came after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper last week.
A report from The Washington Post said Esper sent a classified memo to the White House expressing hesitancy towards removing troops amid a variety of factors, including undercutting U.S.-Afghanistan negotiations and the potential fallout on allies.
The memo also reportedly noted ongoing violence in the region, with a watchdog report this month saying attacks by Taliban and other groups grew by 50 per cent.
If the U.S. performed a rapid pullout from Afghanistan, Esper reportedly wrote, dangers could fall on the remaining troops.
The Trump administration in February signed the U.S.-Talban agreement, which included the U.S. gradually removing troops from the embattled region.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper (left) was fired from his position this week by President Trump (right) after the General Election
Reports indicated the President Trump (pictured) wants to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq while still in office
As it stands, a full withdrawal was set for April if all conditions were met.
The Pentagon was in the midst of lowering the number of U.S. troops to under 5,000 this month, but negotiations reportedly sputtered and the Taliban launched attacks across Afghanistan.
At least 25 civilians – including the father of Mayor Zarifa Ghafari – were killed during a week in Kabul amid targeted assassinations and a terrorist attack this month.
National Counterterrorism Center director Christopher Miller was appointed as acting defense secretary, making him just one of several new Pentagon replacements pushed forward by Trump.
With just two months remaining in the Oval Office, an exodus sparked with a number of employees fired or choosing to resign from their positions.
In their places, Trump has appointed loyalists who might be more willing to adhere to his withdrawal plans.
The President in October said he wanted all U.S. troops back in the United States by Christmas.
A makeshift memorial rests on the sidewalk that leads to the home of Atatiana Jefferson in Fort Worth, Texas
Donald Trump set to order more troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan in waning days of administration taking numbers in each one-time warzone to just 2,500
BY KATELYN CARALLE, U.S. POLITICAL REPORTER FOR DAILYMAIL.COM and ASSOCIATED PRESS
Donald Trump is using some of his final few weeks as president to withdraw more troops from the Middle East as part of his campaign promise to end foreign wars and bring military members home.
This most recent cut will lower the number of U.S. troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan to 2,500 in each country – but signals to U.S. officials and Trump allies that the president is settling for a partial reduction before leaving office rather than fully withdrawing.
Trump’s initial goal was to have all troops home by the end of the year, which was greeted with opposition from military and diplomatic advisers.
There are between 4,500-5,000 troops in Afghanistan now, and more than 3,000 in Iraq.
A U.S. official said the military was expecting formal orders in the coming days to reduce the numbers of troops in Afghanistan by nearly half of its current 4,500. A NATO official also said they expect a 1,500 to 2,000 troop decline.
The decline in Iraq would bring about 500 troops back to the U.S.
President Donald Trump is planning an Executive Order that would bring home more troops from Iraq and Afghanistan – but would stop short of his promise to bring home all troops from those two countries by the end of the year
Trump plans to bring back to the U.S. around 2,000 troops from Afghanistan, lowering their total from 4,500 to around 2,500
His order will also bring back 500 troops from Iraq, leaving 2,500 there, as well
The move comes as no surprise after Trump fired his Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, as part of a Pentagon leadership shakeup last week after the president became concerned that his and others’ priorities did not line up.
Instead he appointed loyalists who share in his frustration with continued troop presence in warzones to top Pentagon positions.
The cuts give Trump an accomplishment in his final weeks in office as he continues to refuse to concede the presidential election to Joe Biden.
An anonymous official told the Associated Press that military leaders were told over the weekend about the planned withdrawals and an executive order is in the works but has not yet been delivered to commanders.
Under the current plans in the drafted order, troop cuts would be completed just five days before Biden takes office, leaving him with a smaller military footprint in the two key warzones.
Trump’s new Pentagon chief, Christopher Miller, hinted at the troop withdrawals over the weekend in a carefully worded message to the force that suggested compromise.
‘We remain committed to finishing the war that Al Qaeda brought to our shores in 2001,’ Miller said, but warned: ‘we must avoid our past strategic error of failing to see the fight through to the finish.’
Miller also made it clear that ‘all wars must end.’
The orders come after Trump issued a shakeup at the Pentagon, including firing his Defense Secretary Mark Esper
Acting Pentagon Chief Christopher Miller, Trump feels, shares in his priorities to get troops home from the Middle East
‘This fight has been long, our sacrifices have been enormous. and many are weary of war – I’m one of them,’ he said. ‘Ending wars requires compromise and partnership. We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home.’
The accelerated withdrawal, however, goes against the longstanding advice from Trump’s military leadership, including Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, top U.S. commander for the Middle East.
Officials, however, suggested this week that commanders will be able to live with the partial pullout, which allows them to keep counterterrorism troops in Afghanistan and gives more time to remove critical equipment.
McKenzie and others have repeatedly argued that a hasty withdrawal could undercut negotiations to finalize ongoing peace negotiations between the Taliban and representatives of Afghan society, including the current Afghan government. And they also warn that U.S. forces should remain in the country to keep Islamic State militants in check.