Trump’s deadline would come five days before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Pentagon officials didn’t immediately comment when asked about the drawdown.
The move comes after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and replaced other top officials at the Pentagon with loyalists last week. Esper sent a classified memo to the White House this month expressing concerns about additional troop cuts, the Washington Post has reported, citing two senior officials it didn’t identify.
The reduced troop level for Afghanistan is consistent with public statements last month by National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, although it stops short of a tweet by Trump expressing hope that U.S. troops there would be home by Christmas.
Until now, U.S. officials have maintained that the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan must be “conditions-based,” in order to maintain pressure for Taliban forces to reach a peace accord with the Afghan government.
Chris Miller, a former Green Beret and White House counterterrorism coordinator who Trump chose as acting defense secretary, said in a memo to all Defense Department employees that “ending wars requires compromise and partnership.”
“We met the challenge; we gave it our all,” Miller said in the memo, reported earlier by McClatchy news. “Now, it‘s time to come home.”
In Iraq, a reduction from about 5,200 troops was announced in September.
In January, Iraq’s parliament had voted to expel American forces amid the uproar after the U.S. killed Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian general who oversaw his country’s foreign military operations, at Baghdad’s airport.
–With assistance from Travis Tritten and Roxana Tiron.