President Donald Trump plans to withdraw about half of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan, defense department officials told The New York Times, leaving around 7,000 troops in the country.
The decision is in line with, and reportedly was made at the same time as Trump's Wednesday decision to remove all U.S. forces form Syria.
U.S. troops in Afghanistan are fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda, as well as training Afghan forces. Trump wants to force Afghan troops to be more self-reliant and less dependent on U.S. and European support, one official told the NYT.
The U.S. is currently conducting airstrikes with a frequency similar to the peak of the war in Afghanistan as it tries to support Afghan troops against surging Taliban forces.
Lindsey Graham says it helps ISIS: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) condemned the move when reports first surfaced, citing his recent visit to Afghanistan. Here's what he said:
"I have just returned from Afghanistan and can say—without hesitation—ISIS-K remains a direct threat to our homeland and they would dramatically benefit from a reduced American troop presence. Our Afghan partners are incapable of subduing the threat posed by ISIS-K alone. In addition, our intelligence capability and military might cannot be replaced by any other regional ally when it comes to subduing ISIS-K in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
"Like in Syria, troop withdrawal should be based on conditions on the ground. The conditions in Afghanistan—at the present moment—make American troop withdrawals a high risk strategy. If we continue on our present course we are setting in motion the loss of all our gains and paving the way toward a second 9/11."
Graham was also critical of Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria. So, he said Thursday that he will tweet back at Trump every time Trump tweets about Syria because "I'm not letting this go."