President Donald Trump has asked the Pentagon to make plans to pull 7,000 U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, according to multiple reports published Thursday.
The decrease, which defense officials have yet to confirm, would represent around half the current U.S. troop deployment in the country, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the decision.
The withdrawal could start within months, with the ultimate aim of removing all 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan, an official told the WSJ.
Earlier this week on Wednesday, Trump announced that all U.S. troops currently serving in Syria would be brought home and declared that “we have won against ISIS.”
Trump made the calls to withdraw from Syria and Afghanistan at the same time earlier this week, CNN reported, and both contributed to Thursday’s resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who reportedly worried pulling out of Syria would agitate the region further in the region attempted to convince Trump to keep troops there.
“Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote in his resignation letter.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, was one of several Republicans to criticize Trump’s Afghanistan plan and warned it “paved the way for a second 9/11.” Graham was also one of the most vocal opponents this week of Trump’s exit from Syria. He said the move would put a “stain on the honor of the United States.”
Trump has long backed a complete troop withdrawal from Afghanistan but was convinced earlier this year to keep a U.S. presence in the country as part of a NATO-led force.
U.S. personnel currently train Afghan forces and target the Taliban through an air campaign — operations likely to be threatened by the reduction in numbers.
George W. Bush first ordered U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan to remove the Taliban in the wake of the 2001 World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.
Seventeen years later, some 2,400 U.S. soldiers have been killed at a cost of around $900 billion to the American treasury — and the Taliban still controls around half the country.
Cover image: President Donald Trump speaks during a meets with Democratic leaders the Oval Office in Washington on Dec. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)