President Donald Trump on Wednesday teased a complete withdrawal of U.S troops from Afghanistan by Christmas, an aggressive timeline to fulfill a campaign promise to end what he has called America’s “endless wars” that comes as the president trails in polls less than a month to go before the election.
“We should have the small remaining number of our BRAVE Men and Women serving in Afghanistan home by Christmas!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
It was unclear whether Trump’s tweet amounted to an announcement or another of many policy suggestions he has handed down over the social media platform throughout his time in office.
His post comes a little less than a month after Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, announced plans to cut the troop presence in Iraq to 3,000 from 5,200 by the end of September.
He later provided additional details about the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying that the U.S. military presence would decrease to 4,500 from 8,600 by late October.
In August, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said troop levels in Afghanistan would drop below 5,000 before the end of November. At the time, Esper said the Pentagon still needed to brief members of Congress on the plan, and would need to ensure that the U.S. is not “threatened by terrorists coming out of Afghanistan.”
Previously, all troops in Afghanistan were supposed to be home by May of next year, and under the peace agreement struck with the Taliban earlier this year, drawing down to fewer than 4,500 troops in Afghanistan must be conditions-based.
Last month, the commander of U.S. forces there, Army Gen. Austin Miller, told the media that violence in the country remained “too high.”
“Taliban violence has to slow down — it has to stop. What it’s driving is an increase in violence across the country,” he said. “Their violence has to come down. The world is watching. We have an opportunity for peace, which is what the people of Afghanistan are looking for.”
Trump’s pledge to withdraw U.S. troops from the Middle East has been a key campaign promise since his earliest days running for president.
But his tweet on Wednesday comes as his reelection campaign searches for a reset following Trump’s diagnosis with, and handling of, coronavirus and a series of other damaging news reports. One such report in The Atlantic, which Democratic nominee Joe Biden has seized on, chronicled the president’s reported disrespect toward veterans and the war dead, asserting the president called fallen soldiers “suckers” and “losers.”