Trump lets his isolationist instincts run free with troop withdrawals

Save articles for later

Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.

Washington: When Donald Trump first ran for president in 2016, his isolationist foreign policy approach set him apart from his Republican opponents.

While calling for military spending to be increased, Trump also demanded an end to America's involvement in "ridiculous endless foreign" wars and for the government to bring home US troops stationed in the Middle East.

US President Donald Trump has long called for the end to “ridiculous” and :stupid” foreign wars. Credit:Polaris

This went against the grain in a party that had been dominated by military hawks like George W Bush and John McCain; in fact, it was more common to hear these sentiments from the anti-war left of the Democratic Party. But Trump tapped into a growing sense of fatigue among Americans — including military veterans — about the country's role as a "global policeman".

Now, in the dying days of his presidency, Trump is working to fulfil a central campaign promise to be a commander-in-chief who dramatically reduced America's overseas military presence.

Trump’s decision to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2500 in each country by January 15 is not the complete withdrawal he wanted. But he will still take credit for it, possibly using it as a central plank of his platform for another presidential run in 2024.

There are currently around 5000 US troops in Afghanistan and 3000 in Iraq.

American soldiers wait on the tarmac in Logar province, Afghanistan. Donald Trump has ordered the number of US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq be reduced by January 15.Credit:AP/File

Trump's decision is likely to prove popular domestically, given that Americans have grown tired of fighting in Afghanistan after almost 20 years there. Some of the biggest applause lines at Trump's rallies come when he talks about bring military troops back from overseas.

It also shows why many world leaders — especially traditional US allies — are delighted by the fact that Democrat Joe Biden, rather than Trump, will be president in two months.

More than the troop reduction itself, world leaders and military figures are alarmed by the quick timeline and the fact the US is acting unilaterally rather than as part of a co-ordinated plan with its military allies.

There's also the risk that Trump's move will weaken the Afghan government's negotiating position as it tries to strike a peace deal with the Taliban.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned: "Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organise attacks on our homelands.

"And ISIS could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq," he said referring to the Islamic State group.

Even as most Republicans in Congress continue to defend Trump on most issues, many senior figures within the party have blasted Trump's decision as risky and premature. It shows how Trump's foreign policy views still remain at odds with those of many party elites.

"A rapid withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan now would hurt our allies and delight the people who wish us harm," Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech to the Senate, in a rare break with Trump.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell warned against reducing the number of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Credit:Bloomberg

"A disorganised retreat would jeopardise the track record of major successes this administration has worked hard to compile.

"It would be reminiscent of the humiliating American departure from Saigon in 1975."

Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that "a premature US withdrawal would not only jeopardise the Afghan government’s ability to negotiate, but would endanger US counter-terrorism interests".

US President Donald Trump, right, plays golf at his club in Sterling, Virginia, on Sunday.Credit:AP

The announcement came on the same day that officials in Iraq revealed at least two rockets had exploded inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, wounding several people.

The Green Zone contains the Iraqi parliament and foreign embassies, including the American embassy.

Trump pushed ahead with the move regardless. Rather than expert advice, he is trusting his own instincts and seeking to burnish his legacy.

If anything goes wrong it will be Joe Biden's mess to clean up: he will be inaugurated on January 20, just five days after Trump's troop drawdown is complete.

Most Viewed in World

Source: Read Full Article