Trump’s wag-the-dog plan: Withdraw troops from Afghanistan, bomb Iran

WASHINGTON: In his final, chaotic days in the White House, US President Donald Trump, while resisting calls to bow out gracefully after losing the Presidency, is planning to cut troops in Afghanistan and Iraq while also exploring the possibility of bombing Iran‘s nuclear facilities, according to US lawmakers and foreign policy analysts.
Trump’s gambits, coming amid growing domestic unrest in the aftermath of the presidential elections and worrying rise in covid cases, is alarming US lawmakers, including Republican Senators, and it is being resisted by traditional military commanders and foreign policy mandarins.
Although withdrawing US forces from war theaters he believes Washington has no business to be in was part of Trump’s election pledges, the proposal is sundering the Republican Party. “A rapid withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan now would hurt our allies and delight the people who wish us harm,” Senator Majority leader Mitch McConnell, a Trump ally in all things domestic said, while warning, “The consequences of a premature American exit would likely be even worse than President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq back in 2011, which fueled the rise of ISIS and a new round of global terrorism.”
“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 of victory for Islamic extremism. It would be reminiscent of the humiliating America departure from Saigon in 1975. We’d be abandoning our partners in Afghanistan. It would hand a weakened and scattered Al-Qaeda a big, big propaganda victory and a renewed safe haven for plotting attacks against America. And it would be welcome news for Iran.” he added.
But other GOP lawmakers appeared to back the President on the troop withdrawal issue, with some suggesting that the US needs to recalibrate its objectives. “In the longterm, our biggest threat in the world isn’t in the Middle East-it’s China. We need to take steps necessary around the world to posture our forces so they can deter Chinese Communist aggression,” Senator Tom Cotton, a rising star in the Republican ranks, said.
The sizing down in Afghanistan and Iraq came amid reports that Trump is also considering a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities because of a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material following the US trashing the nuclear accord with Teheran during the Obama presidency.
According to the NY Times, which first reported the story, a range of senior advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike, warning that it could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of the Trump presidency.
After Pompeo and General Milley described the potential risks of military escalation, the report said officials left the meeting believing a missile attack inside Iran was off the table but it cited other officials as saying Trump might still be looking at ways to strike Iranian assets and allies, including militias in Iraq.
Traditional foreign policy analysts and liberal critics pilloried what some called the wag-the-dog scenario when leaders start a war to overcome domestic troubles. “Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon than it was 4 years ago when @realDonaldTrump became president, & North Korea has more nuclear weapons and long range missiles than it did. That is the bottom line following 4 years of misguided foreign policy,” noted Richard Haas, a former state department official and President of the Council on Foreign Relations.

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