A high-profile split emerged Wednesday between Utah’s two Republican senators over whether President Donald Trump’s decision to drastically reduce troops in Afghanistan and Iraq is “emboldening our enemies” or is long overdue.
“It is long past time to bring our troops home,” Lee said.
“For too long, U.S. engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq has operated without a clear mission or end strategy,” he said. “In the new year, I hope to see a full withdrawal of forces and a Congress ready to repeal the outdated 2001 and 2002 for the use of military force.”
Lee also commended Trump and Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller “for their leadership.”
A day earlier, Romney, chairman of a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that oversees the Middle East, said the move “risks alienating our allies and emboldening our enemies.”
“The decision to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan, Iraq, and potentially elsewhere should not be based on a U.S. political calendar,” Romney said in a written statement.
“The administration has yet to explain why reducing troops in Afghanistan — where conditions for withdrawal have not been met — is a wise decision for our national security interests in the region,” he wrote.
Miller said the military will carry out Trump’s orders by Jan. 15. He said troops in Afghanistan would be reduced from about 5,000 to 2,500, and from about 3,000 to 2,500 in Iraq.
The decision in Afghanistan comes nine months after the Trump administration and the Taliban reached a deal that would remove all U.S. troops there by next year if conditions are met.
Senior U.S. military officials have raised concerns about the Taliban meeting those conditions, noting a spike in violence against Afghans and ongoing questions about whether it will break with al-Qaeda.
Trump has dished out criticism of Romney and praise for Lee.