Even if Donald Trump lost the presidential election of November 3, he continues to lead the United States until January 20, 2021. It is within this framework that he has acted as the progressive reduction in the number of American troops in Afghanistan at 2,500 in January 2021, the smallest American contingent in two decades of war, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday. The current occupant of the White House had promised to put an end to "endless wars". About 2,000 soldiers will withdraw from Afghanistan by January 15, and 500 more will leave Iraq leaving only 2,500 soldiers in each country, said the new acting defense minister, Christopher Miller.
The withdrawal will come as Donald Trump, defeated in the presidential election by Democrat Joe Biden, cedes power on January 20. This decision reflects the wish of the American president "to end successfully and responsibly the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to bring our courageous soldiers home," he said. Since the launch of the military offensives in Afghanistan in 2001 then in Iraq two years later, more than 6,900 American soldiers have died and more than 52,000 have been wounded in these two theaters of war, according to the Pentagon. Peace talks are underway between the Taliban and the Afghan government, following an agreement between Washington and the insurgents which confirms the withdrawal of American forces by mid-2021.
Fear after the American announcement
The announcement raises fears, in the United States and around the world, of a resurgence of extremist groups, nearly 20 years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, instigated by Al-Qaeda, then under the protection of the Afghan Taliban. And while the self-proclaimed “caliphate” of the Islamic State group collapsed in March 2019, the jihadists continue to sow terror. The leader of the Republican majority in the Senate Mitch McConnell had estimated Monday that the United States would "abandon" its allies in the event of a premature withdrawal. This "would delight people who wish us harm," warned Mitch McConnell, yet an ally of Donald Trump.
Senator Jack Reed, Democratic member of the Armed Services Committee, denounced "a short-sighted approach (which) will not bring peace and which will more surely threaten America". NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that Afghanistan could "once again become a base for international terrorists" should the Alliance's 12,000 or so troops withdraw, less than half of them American.
The violence continues
France felt that this would be a bad idea and Germany, which has 1,300 troops deployed, demanded that this withdrawal be coordinated within NATO. "We went there together, we changed together, and when the time is right, we will leave together," said the American minister to reassure his allies. Christopher Miller said he spoke to Jens Stoltenberg and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. “We continue to stand by his side as his government works towards a negotiated settlement for peace” with the Taliban.
"Al-Qaeda has been in Afghanistan for decades and we would be foolish to say that they will go away tomorrow," said a senior Pentagon official shortly before Christopher Miller's announcement. “The solution is to negotiate a power-sharing or some kind of agreement whereby the Taliban and the Afghan people can live side by side in peace,” he said. But the violence has only increased in recent months. A Nov. 2 attack on Kabul University left at least 22 people dead, most of them students. It was claimed by the Islamic State group, but the government accused the Taliban of instigating it. And in Iraq, seven rockets targeted the American embassy in Baghdad as Christopher Miller intervened, breaking more than a month of truce decreed by pro-Iran Iraqi factions.