Trump's decision to pull troops from Afghanistan could put Biden in 'a strategic corner'
Trump's decision to pull troops from Afghanistan could put Biden in 'a strategic corner'

Trump's decision to pull troops from Afghanistan could put Biden in 'a strategic corner'

November 11, 2020

While the drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan that the Trump administration announced Tuesday gives President-elect Joe Biden something close to what he advocated for as vice president, it may paint him into a corner as an incoming president, military experts say.

Larry Goodson, an authority on Afghanistan at the Army War College, said that dramatically reducing the size of the force in Afghanistan so close to the change of administrations would be a mistake. Trump’s move also seemed at odds with events on the ground, he said, pointing to a recent “spate of bombings and assassinations” in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

If the troop withdrawal leads to greater instability, Goodson said, “you’re then faced with the Biden administration having to immediately countermand all of that and send forces back to reoccupy positions” and reintegrate themselves with the Afghan organizations they had been supporting.

“It really paints the Biden administration into a political and a strategic corner,” Goodson told Yahoo News.

Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller told the Pentagon press corps Tuesday that the United States was reducing the size of its forces in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 in each location by Jan. 15. Following Miller’s remarks, national security adviser Robert O’Brien spoke briefly to reporters at the White House and said that the announcement meant that President Trump was keeping his promise “to put a stop to America’s endless wars.”

Lacing his comments with repeated references to the heroism and sacrifice of the many thousands of Americans who had fought in both countries, including more than 6,900 who had died, Miller said the force reductions were “consistent with our established plans and strategic objectives” and did not “equate to a change in policy” for the Trump administration, a point that O’Brien reiterated.

U.S. soldiers in Wardak province
U.S. soldiers in Wardak province, Afghanistan, June 2019. (Thomas Watkins/AFP via Getty Images)

But Jonathan Schroden, a research program director at CNA who has made 13 trips to Afghanistan, said that an ironic consequence of Tuesday’s announcement was that it would give Biden roughly what he had argued for as vice president in 2009, when he proposed limiting U.S. forces to a small presence focused on counterterrorism.

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