STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Officials brace for Afghanistan announcement

Officials throughout the Trump administration are bracing themselves for the President to make an announcement about the US presence in Afghanistan, similar to his declaration that the US will withdraw the military from Syria, informed administration sources tell CNN.

Posted: Dec 21, 2018 11:43 AM
Updated: Dec 21, 2018 12:16 PM

The US military has been ordered to begin planning to withdraw about half the troops in Afghanistan, a US defense official with direct knowledge of the matter told CNN on Thursday.

The official said planning is underway, and it could take months to withdraw the nearly 7,000 troops.

The decision was made Tuesday, at the same time as President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the US military from Syria -- moves that precipitated Defense Secretary James Mattis' resignation announcement on Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report the plan for the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Several US defense officials told CNN that Trump wants to draw down US troops in Afghanistan. Two administration officials told CNN that Trump wants the plans drawn up in hopes he could announce the drawdown in his State of the Union speech, which is traditionally at the end of January or early February.

CNN reported earlier Thursday that officials throughout the administration were bracing themselves for Trump to make an announcement about the US presence in Afghanistan.

Multiple officials told CNN the military decisions were a factor in Mattis' decision to resign.

Gen. John Allen, a former commander of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, told CNN on Thursday that a drawdown in Afghanistan would be a mistake.

"Pulling out right now, just the announcement would create chaos in the strategy," Allen said.

The US has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, most of which are present as part of a larger NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. Any withdrawal would be complicated by the fact that the United States is part of NATO's Resolute Support mission.

Trump has long been critical of the US presence in Afghanistan, which began after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But lawmakers have echoed Allen's concern about a hasty departure.

South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN's Kate Bolduan on Thursday that "according to our military commanders and everybody I know, we want to withdraw from Afghanistan with honor and do it based on conditions on the ground."

"Based on my assessment in Afghanistan, if we withdrew anytime soon, you would be paving the way for a second 9/11," Graham said.

Graham noted that Trump has said he wants other countries to do the fighting.

"Since August of 2017, 5,600 Afghans have died fighting the Taliban and ISIS," he told Bolduan. "Eighteen American killed in combat, four killed through accidents. God bless the 22."

Just two weeks before the news of the withdrawal plan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, said at a Washington Post Live event that he "had not recommended" that the US withdraw.

"I had not recommended that we leave Afghanistan because, again, in my judgment, leaving Afghanistan not only would create instability in South Asia, but in my judgment would give terrorist groups the space within which to plan and conduct operations against the American people, our homeland and our allies," Dunford said. "And that really is the problem we are trying to solve."

The same day news broke of the Afghanistan decision, the Department of Defense released a report on "enhancing security and stability in Afghanistan."

The report cited a ceasefire, statements of religious scholars and recent talks with the Taliban as evidence of progress.

"The combination of military escalation and diplomatic initiative have made a favorable political settlement more likely than at any time in recent memory," the report said.

Trump has long questioned troop presence in Afghanistan

Trump has repeatedly questioned the need to spend US blood and treasure in Afghanistan, asking in 2011: "When will we stop wasting our money on rebuilding Afghanistan? We must rebuild our country first."

Since his election, the President has made his frustration with the continued military presence clear.

Outlining his strategy for the country in an August 2017 address, the President said, "I share the American people's frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money -- and, most importantly, lives -- trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations."

In an interview with The Washington Post last month, Trump laid out his rationale for keeping US troops in the country in a way that made clear the impetus to remain wasn't his.

"We're there because virtually every expert that I have and speak to say if we don't go there, they're going to be fighting over here," he said.

Nearly two decades in, a "stalemate"

More than a year after Trump announced his administration's new strategy for achieving success in Afghanistan and the wider region, the situation remains decidedly mixed, with the conflict at a "stalemate."

Though the casualty rate for US troops is far lower than it was earlier in the war, Americans are still losing their lives 17 years after it began. While the Taliban is unable to take major cities or towns, the Afghan security forces, despite receiving US support, are still unable to put an end to the insurgency.

US troops have continued to suffer casualties this year, even though they are largely serving in a supporting role, with local Afghan forces doing most of the fighting.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently announced that about 29,000 Afghan soldiers and police had been killed or wounded since 2015. US casualties during that same period declined sharply as American soldiers largely shifted away from direct combat.

"We used the term stalemate a year ago, and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much," Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a conference in Halifax last month.

News about the Afghanistan plan comes a day after Trump ordered the "full" and "rapid" withdrawal of US troops from Syria, declaring the US has defeated ISIS in Syria.

The decision, a sharp reversal from previously stated US policy, surprised foreign allies and US lawmakers, sparking angry rebukes, rebuttals and warnings of intensified congressional oversight even as the White House said troops are already on their way home.

"We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency," Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.

Planning for that pullout is already underway, a US defense and an administration official told CNN.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 27900

Reported Deaths: 1082
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds215239
DeSoto137316
Madison122234
Jones106949
Neshoba96069
Lauderdale88278
Rankin84112
Forrest81442
Scott75015
Harrison7448
Copiah56615
Leake54819
Jackson53316
Holmes52741
Wayne52112
Washington4969
Lee49316
Oktibbeha48624
Yazoo4736
Leflore47249
Lowndes45311
Warren44317
Lincoln43534
Lamar4197
Grenada3805
Monroe36729
Pike36712
Attala35223
Lafayette3524
Newton3289
Sunflower3066
Covington3025
Bolivar27713
Panola2706
Adams26718
Chickasaw25918
Tate2577
Jasper2506
Marion24811
Pontotoc2476
Noxubee2458
Pearl River24432
Winston2435
Clay24210
Claiborne23610
Simpson2303
Smith20611
Clarke20124
Marshall2013
Coahoma1866
Kemper17614
Union1759
Walthall1724
Yalobusha1617
Carroll16011
Lawrence1591
Itawamba1278
Calhoun1244
Humphreys1239
Tippah12311
Webster12310
Montgomery1222
Hancock12013
Jefferson Davis1064
Tallahatchie1043
Prentiss983
Greene927
Jefferson923
Wilkinson919
Tunica893
Amite822
George743
Choctaw714
Quitman680
Tishomingo681
Perry614
Alcorn561
Stone521
Franklin382
Benton270
Sharkey240
Issaquena71
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 39604

Reported Deaths: 961
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4387142
Montgomery383999
Mobile3697134
Tuscaloosa204938
Marshall153710
Lee118937
Shelby108223
Madison10577
Morgan9813
Walker86723
Franklin85213
Dallas8198
Elmore81314
Baldwin6869
Etowah62513
Butler60427
DeKalb6025
Chambers58127
Tallapoosa56369
Autauga54511
Unassigned52025
Russell4840
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4446
Houston4344
Limestone4090
Cullman4003
Pike3995
Colbert3685
Bullock3629
Coffee3532
Barbour3231
Covington3087
St. Clair3042
Hale29321
Marengo28611
Wilcox2808
Sumter27612
Calhoun2705
Talladega2677
Clarke2665
Escambia2636
Dale2440
Jackson2382
Winston2333
Blount2141
Chilton2112
Pickens2116
Marion20312
Monroe1972
Choctaw19212
Conecuh1804
Bibb1711
Macon1708
Randolph1709
Greene1667
Perry1451
Henry1303
Crenshaw1233
Lawrence1010
Washington1007
Cherokee747
Lamar711
Fayette671
Geneva670
Clay582
Coosa551
Cleburne291
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 74°
Columbus
Broken Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 72°
Oxford
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 70°
Starkville
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 70°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather