US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday urged US President Donald Trump not to accelerate troop reductions in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying it would give extremists a “big propaganda victory.”
Addressing reports that Trump was planning to announce within days sharp cuts to US forces in both nations, the Republican Senate boss said that the US would be “abandoning” partners.
He added that the move would leave room for the Taliban to take control of Afghanistan, and for the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda to rebuild.
“The consequences of a premature US exit would likely be even worse than [former US] president [Barack] Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq back in 2011, which fueled the rise of ISIS [Islamic State] and a new round of global terrorism,” McConnell said on the US Senate floor. “It would be reminiscent of the humiliating America departure from Saigon in 1975.”
McConnell spoke after reports said that the Pentagon had received directives to prepare to bring back another 2,000 US forces from Afghanistan and 500 from Iraq before Trump steps down on Jan. 20.
That would leave only about 2,500 troops in each nation, fewer than US military officials have said is enough to ensure stability.
Before he was fired on Monday last week, former US secretary of defense Mark Esper had insisted on keeping 4,500 troops in Afghanistan until the Taliban reduced its attacks on the Afghan government to show a commitment to peace talks.
The Pentagon did not confirm the reports, which said Trump could announce the withdrawals this week.
Trump entered office nearly four years ago pledging to end US wars abroad.
He has appeared determined to get close to that before he steps down, following his election loss to US president-elect Joe Biden.
He said last month that he wanted US troops home “by Christmas” and US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien refined that to mean the Afghan presence would fall to 2,500 as early as January.
McConnell, normally a close political ally of Trump, said that a rapid withdrawal would “delight the people who would wish us harm.”
“The spectacle of US troops abandoning facilities and equipment, leaving the field in Afghanistan to the Taliban and ISIS, would be broadcast around the world as a symbol of US defeat and humiliation, and a victory for Islamic extremism,” McConnell said. “It would hand a weakened and scattered al-Qaeda a big, big propaganda victory, and a renewed safe haven for plotting attacks against America.”
China has possibly committed “genocide” in its treatment of Uighurs and other minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China said in a report on Thursday. The bipartisan commission said that new evidence had last year emerged that “crimes against humanity — and possibly genocide — are occurring” in Xinjiang. It also accused China of harassing Uighurs in the US. China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills, which others have called concentration camps. The UN says that
A racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the US to find a new home in Australia. Now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it. Kevin Celli-Bird yesterday said he discovered that the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 last year had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on Oct. 29. Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe — after US president-elect Joe Biden — hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific. Joe’s feat has attracted the attention
The Polish Supreme Court on Friday quashed a lower court’s green light for the extradition of a businessman to China for alleged fraud, a charge he has denied, saying that he is being targeted for supporting Falun Gong. Polish authorities took Chinese-born Swedish citizen Li Zhihui, now 53, into custody in 2019 on an international warrant issued by China for alleged non-payment in a business deal, Krzysztof Kitajgrodzki, his Polish lawyer, told reporters. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the case would return to a lower appellate court for review. Kitajgrodzki told reporters that it was still not a given that his client
DELIVERING HOPE: The Japanese PM pledged to push ahead with plans to stage the Games, despite polls showing about 80% think they will not or should not happen Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga yesterday vowed to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control and hold the already postponed Olympic Games this summer with ample protection. In a speech opening a new session of parliament, Suga said that his government would revise laws to make disease prevention measures enforceable with penalties and compensation. Early in the pandemic, Japan was able to keep its caseload manageable with nonbinding requests for businesses to close or operate with social distancing, and for people to stay at home, but recent weeks have seen several highs in new cases per day, in part blamed on eased attitudes