President Trump's Syria decision wasn't the only reason behind the abrupt resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, insiders say. The New York Times reports that defense officials say Trump has ordered the military to begin pulling 7,000 troops from Afghanistan, about half the current US forces there. Sources tell the AP that the decision was a major factor in the departure of Mattis, who persuaded Trump to send more troops to the country last year to keep pressure on the Taliban and fight a growing threat from ISIS. At the time, Trump said his "original instinct was to pull out." The effect the move will have on ongoing peace talks with the Taliban is unclear, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In Afghanistan, news that American troops are expected to start withdrawing in the coming months has caused shock and fear of chaos to come, the Times reports. There has been no comment from the Pentagon yet, though Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the new commander of Central Command, told lawmakers last month that the Afghan military could collapse if "we left precipitously right now." "I think that one of the things that would actually provide the most damage to them would be if we put a timeline on it and we said we were going out at a certain point in time," he said. Trump has made similar remarks in the past. In a 2011 tweet, he wondered why former President Obama was "letting the Taliban know when our troops are leaving" and warned: "This is dangerous for our soldiers." (Under Trump, the CIA has been taking a more "aggressive" role in Afghanistan.)