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>> On the same day as the resignation of U.S Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a Reuters source also revealed President Donald Trump is set to withdraw thousands of U.S troops from Afghanistan. That's according to a US official on Thursday who told Reuters the Trump White House is planning to withdraw more than 5,000 troops from the country.
That's around a third of the 14,000 U.S troops currently deployed in Afghanistan, where the U.S military has been a constant presence since 2001. Trump's call to withdraw troops from the country also coming just a day after his decision to withdraw from Syria, a call that's reportedly also a factor in Defense Secretary Mattis' resignation.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters a decision had been made and that verbal orders have been given to start planning for the move. Reuters also understands the shift could happen in the coming weeks or months. The news of a looming Afghan drawdown caused a sharp reaction in Washington, with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham tweeting a reduction in troop numbers was quote, a high risk strategy and that the present course could pave the way for what he called a quote, second 9/11.
It's also unclear how the U.S military in Afghanistan with significantly reduced numbers would be able to fulfill its current mission in the country. That includes training Afghan security forces, advising them in the field and waging an air campaign against the Taliban and other militants. Instead, the U.S would almost certainly have to reduce the scope of its mission in the country, raising fears that a resurgent Taliban could fill the security vacuum.
The Pentagon declined to comment.