The Trump administration is expected to cut the number of US troops in Afghanistan almost in half to 2,500 by Jan. 15, US officials said Monday. The order would stop short of outgoing President Trump's goal to have all troops withdrawn by the end of the year, which had faced opposition from military and diplomatic advisers. The Pentagon also expects to cut the number of troops in Iraq to 2,500, the AP reports, a reduction of more than 500. The decisions come in the wake of Trump's shakeup of the Pentagon leadership last week, in which he installed loyalists who share his frustration with the continued troop presence in the war zones. The cuts would give Trump an accomplishment in his final weeks in office. The officials said military leaders were told over the weekend about the planned withdrawals, and an executive order is in the works but has not yet been delivered to commanders. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. There are 4,500 to 5,000 troops in Afghanistan, and more than 3,000 in Iraq.
Under the order, the troop cuts would be completed just five days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, leaving him with a smaller military footprint in the two key war zones. Military commanders have expressed less concern about pulling more troops from Iraq, where the Iraqi forces are better able to maintain their nation's security. Trump's new Pentagon chief, Christopher Miller, hinted at the withdrawals over the weekend in a message to the force that suggested compromise. He said that “we remain committed to finishing the war that Al Qaida brought to our shores in 2001." But he also made it clear that “all wars must end.” The accelerated withdrawal goes against longstanding advice from Trump’s military leadership, including Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, top commander for the Middle East. But officials suggested this week that commanders will be able to live with the partial pullout, which lets them to keep counterterrorism troops in Afghanistan and allows more time to remove critical equipment. (US troops deployed nearly 20 years ago to Afghanistan have seen their children take over.)