Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned Tuesday that it would be a “mistake” to precipitously yank troops from Afghanistan or Iraq and urged the administration to make no major defense or foreign policy changes for the rest of the year.
“I think it’s extremely important here in the next couple of months not to have any earthshaking changes with regard to defense and foreign policy. I think a precipitous drawdown in either Afghanistan or Iraq would be a mistake,” McConnell told reporters.
McConnell’s comments came as acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced that President Trump had ordered the Pentagon to pull 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq by mid-January.
The Defense Department will cut the number of troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 and the number of forces in Iraq from 3,000 to 2,500 by Jan. 15, days before Trump is set to leave office.
McConnell’s comments also come amid a shakeup at the top of the Pentagon, starting with the ousting of Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Trump is reportedly mulling firing CIA Director Gina Haspel, who top Republicans, including McConnell, offered shows of support for last week.
The decision to draw down troops is likely to spark fierce backlash on Capitol Hill.
McConnell, speaking from the Senate floor on Monday, warned against pulling troops from Afghanistan.
“The consequences of a premature American exit would likely be even worse than President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq back in 2011. … It would be reminiscent of the humiliating American departure from Saigon in 1975. We’d be abandoning our partners in Afghanistan,” McConnell said.