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The US military announced this week that it would reduce troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan before November, as President Donald Trump seeks to fulfill a 2016 campaign pledge before this year’s election.
Trump’s scramble to keep that promise reflects its favorability among his base and the public at large. But the policies the president and other politicians have actually pursued suggest there will be resistance to fully withdrawing.
Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, who oversees military operations in the Middle East, said Wednesday that by November troop levels in Iraq would fall from about 5,200 to about 3,000 and those in Afghanistan would fall to 4,500. (Reports that Trump wanted to further reduce the 8,600 troops in Afghanistan emerged earlier this year.)
McKenzie said the administration was confident that US-trained security forces could handle the threat posed by ISIS in Iraq and that the US military would still be able to accomplish its “core tasks” in Afghanistan.
Trump vowed during his campaign and throughout his term to avoid “the failed policies of the past” and end “endless wars.”
“It’s absolutely the case that he campaigned in 2016 on ending wars. It’s definitely a popular sentiment among veterans and military families, which was and is … part of Trump’s base,” said Erica Fein, advocacy director at Win Without War, which promotes progressive national-security policies.
Polling has shown that the public in general and veterans specifically no longer see the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as worth their costs.
Surveys also show that the public and veterans favor bringing troops home. A poll commissioned by the libertarian Charles Koch Institute in late July, for instance, found 74% and 76% of respondents supported pulling out of those countries.
“In poll after poll, you see broad-based majority support for ending US conflicts abroad, for ending endless war, and you see the public definitely opposing new military conflicts, and that’s definitely most notable with Iran,” Fein said in an interview Friday.
Despite his campaign promises, Trump has deployed thousands more troops to the Middle East during his time in office, including to Iraq and Afghanistan, reversing reductions by the Obama administration.
But the number of personnel in those countries has been declining, and ongoing withdrawals, as well as McKenzie’s recent announcements, reflect a key shift, according to Daniel L. Davis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and senior fellow at Defense Priorities, a think tank that advocates restraint in US foreign policy.
“I think it probably is not coincidental that you have seen some recent polling come out that the American public is increasingly opposed to these forever wars,” Davis said on a conference call Thursday. “I think he’s very aware of what the voters think, and those are some of the voters who put him in power in 2016, and he sees that they’ve moved even further away from wanting these forever wars.”
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Source:: Business Insider