Trump To Begin Afghanistan Drawdown With Withdrawal of 7,000 US Troops: Report

President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to withdraw about half of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently deployed to Afghanistan, marking the beginning of the end of U.S. involvement in the 17-year war there.

The drawdown, which was first reported Thursday evening by the Wall Street Journal, will remove roughly 7,000 American service members from Afghanistan. It is likely the first stage in a withdrawal of U.S. forces that could take several months, according to administration officials who spoke to the Journal.

The move comes a day after Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, where American troops are supporting Kurdish militia groups in the fight against the Islamic State. Declaring ISIS to be "defeated," the White House confirmed that all 2,000 American troops will be withdrawn or redeployed elsewhere within 30 days.

Trump's Syria announcement rankled many defense officials and observers in Washington's national security establishment. On Thursday, Defense Secretary James Mattis, who had advocated a long-term military presence in Syria, resigned over differences with the president with respect to Syria policy and other strategic concerns.

Trump has long been skeptical of continued involvement in Middle East wars and campaigned on a platform of reducing U.S. military commitments in the region. After taking office, however, Trump was persuaded by senior national security aides to authorize a mini-surge of troops to Afghanistan and continue the anti-ISIS mission in Syria.

Both of those policies appear to be coming to an abrupt end, with Trump overruling military advisers and opting for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces. While the White House has confirmed the withdrawal of troops from Syria, it has not commented publicly on the possibility of pulling U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Afghanistan drawdown.

The U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan has suffered serious setbacks this year, which was one of the deadliest for both Afghan security forces and civilians since the war began in 2001. The Taliban now controls or contests nearly half of the country's districts following a summer fighting season that saw the insurgent group nearly overrun multiple provincial capitals.

About 25,000 Afghan troops have died since the official end of U.S. combat operations in late 2014, according to the New York Times, which also reported the administration's plans to withdraw half of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.