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Reuters: Trump poised to settle for partial Afghan withdrawal, despite Pentagon shakeup

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Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali of Reuters have reported on Monday that, according to sources, President Donald Trump may settle for a partial withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan.

An anonymous U.S. official told Reuters that the military was expecting formal orders in the coming days to go down to about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan by early next year from around 4,500 currently.

Another anonymous official, this time from NATO, reportedly also cited expectations of a 1,500 to 2,000 troop decline.

This comes one week after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and replaced him with Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller. The president appointed other top Pentagon officials last week, Reuters said, after longstanding concerns that his priorities were not being dealt with urgently enough at the Defense Department.

According to Reuters, these concerns included the ambitious goal of ending the 19-year-old war in Afghanistan before Christmas. Those who oppose the longest war in the history of the U.S. were receptive this goal, but Trump’s critics have warned that completely pulling out troops could be reckless amid continuing violence from Taliban militants that has been disrupting Afghanistan.

An anonymous senior U.S. defense official told Reuters that Afghanistan has been featured in a number of introductory calls by Miller to U.S. allies’ defense ministers and chiefs of defense.

“It was a part of many of them because it is of great importance to our NATO allies, our allies in the region and also just global security and protecting the American homeland,” the unnamed official said.

But the official, speaking after the calls with allies, suggested to Reuters that Trump would not push a withdrawal faster than conditions on the ground allow.

Furthermore, U.S. and Afghan officials are concerned by the ongoing violence by Taliban insurgents and persistent Taliban links to the terrorist group al-Qaeda.

Following the September 11th attacks in 2001 that al-Qaeda carried out, it was those ties between the two groups that triggered the initial U.S. military intervention in October 2001. Nearly 2,400 American troops and over a thousand coalition troops have died in fighting in Afghanistan since its start.

Some U.S. military officials, citing U.S. counter-terrorism priorities in Afghanistan, have privately urged Trump against going to zero at this point and want to keep U.S. troop levels at around 4,500 for now, per Reuters.

“The president has acted appropriately in this, has never said: ‘Hey, we’re going to zero. Let’s go tomorrow.’ It has always been a conditions-based effort and that effort continues,” the senior U.S. defense official said, without explicitly detailing future drawdown plans.

However, U.S. officials say Trump has yet to issue orders to carry that withdrawal out. On Monday the first U.S. official said to Reuters that the Pentagon had told commanders to start planning for the more moderate reduction to 2,500 troops.

Additionally, the aforementioned NATO official said to Reuters that the belief was the United States could soon announce a drawdown to 2,500 to 3,000 troops by Christmas.

NATO allies also in Afghanistan are very reliant on the U.S. for logistical support, which U.S. officials told Reuters would make a total withdrawal at this moment difficult for the U.S. military to execute.

Taliban militants have asked that Trump stick to an agreement made back in February that would see U.S. troops withdrawn by May 2021 as long as certain security guarantees are upheld.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Trump: Tanks to Ukraine could escalate to use of ‘NUKES’

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Former President Donald Trump stated bluntly on Truth Social,  “FIRST COME THE TANKS, THEN COME THE NUKES. Get this crazy war ended, NOW. So easy to do!”

Trump was referring to the escalation of war in Ukraine. He, like many other commentators and lawmakers, are warning that the decision to continue sending weapons – and now tanks – could potentially lead to the use of “nuclear weapons.”

It’s mission creep and it’s dangerous, they say.

Why? Because Russian President Valdimir Putin has indicated in two different speeches that he would use nuclear weapons to defend Russia, if needed. Those warnings are not just bluster but a very real possibility.

And the escalation of war is visible.

Russia launched 55 missiles strikes across Ukraine Thursday, leaving 11 dead. The strikes come one day after the United States and Germany agreed to send tanks to Ukraine in an effort to aide the country. 47 of the 55 missiles were shot down according to Ukraine’s Air Force command.

Eleven lives were lost and another 11 were injured additionally leaving 35 buildings damaged in the wake of the attacks. According to The New York Times, Denys Shmyhal, said in a post on Telegram. “The main goal is energy facilities, providing Ukrainians with light and heat,” he said.

Ukraine is now demanding that they need F-16 fighter jets. In a post on twitter Ukrainian lawmaker, Oleksiy Goncharenko said, “Missiles again over Ukraine. We need F16.”

The US has abstained from sending advanced jets in the chances that a volatile decision could foster more dangerous attacks like former President Trump’s post on Truth referred to. If the US did authorize the decision to lend Ukraine the F-16 jets Netherlands’ foreign minister, Wopke Hoekstra, would be willing to supply them. According to The New York Times, Hoekstra told Dutch lawmakers, “We are open-minded… There are no taboos.”

F-16 fighter jets are complex to work on, they are not the average aircraft that can be learned in a matter of weeks. It can take months for pilots to learn how to fly these birds. European and US officials have the concern that Ukrainian forces could potentially use the jets to fly into Russian airspace and launch attacks on Russian soil.

Western allies are trying to avoid such a provocation, because that could lead to nuclear warfare in reference to what Putin has said he would do to defend his country.

 

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