Trump, Self-Proclaimed Ender of Endless Wars, Is Reducing the U.S. Troop Presence in Iraq to Where It Was in 2015

“The Journal reports that the departure of some 1,700 troops from Iraq will occur over the next few months. Once gone, America’s military presence in that country will be where it was in 2015.

Under Trump, America’s troop commitment to our various foreign wars has oscillated; first surging then tapering off.

PolitiFact notes that when Trump came into office there were around 8,500 troops in Afghanistan. The president increased our military presence up to 14,000 personnel but has since drawn it back down to where it was at the beginning of Trump’s term. That number is supposed to fall to 4,000 in November.

Under Trump, the Defense Department has stopped publishing troop numbers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, making it difficult to get an accurate count of how much military personnel is in those countries. The Washington Post reported in July that the number of U.S. troops stationed abroad has slightly increased under Trump.

Outside of troop levels, Trump has amped up the drone war and vetoed a resolution to end U.S. participation in the war in Yemen. He has also escalated tensions with Iran by tearing up the 2015 nuclear deal signed under the Obama administration, reapplying sanctions, and deploying additional aircraft and ships to the region in response to alleged Iranian drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

In January, the Trump administration assassinated Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, provoking an Iranian missile counterattack on U.S. military bases in the country.”

China and India are in a dangerous standoff over a hotly contested border

“For about 80 years, India and China have quarreled over a roughly 2,200-mile frontier spanning the Himalayas, occasionally going to war over their competing claims. Despite 20-plus rounds of negotiations, the world’s two most populous countries haven’t come close to agreeing on most of the boundaries, providing a continuous source of tension between Beijing and New Delhi.

It’s unclear what, exactly, started this latest flare-up. India’s government says that earlier this month, unprovoked Chinese troops threw rocks at Indian soldiers in the western Himalayas. Beijing counters that claim, instead blaming Indian forces for illegally walking into Chinese territory. Whatever the reason, a combined 100-plus soldiers from both sides sustained injuries during two skirmishes on May 5 and May 9.

No shots were fired and no one was killed, but that hasn’t stopped both nuclear-armed nations from escalating the standoff since the initial squabbles.

Thousands of troops are now camped on either side of the Galwan Valley, a contentious territory in the high-altitude Ladakh region. Chinese and Indian soldiers have dug new defenses and shipped more military equipment to their outposts.”

“Experts note there’s still a long way to go before a shooting war begins. They point to ongoing diplomatic efforts to solve the scuffle and say neither side actually wants a war with the coronavirus raging.

The problem is that it could be a long time before either China or India decides to settle the matter peacefully — which means an already bad situation might get much worse.”

Turkey used a new weapon in Syria that was so effective it looks like Russia won’t dare confront Turkey directly

“The Turkish military’s devastating display of power against the Syrian army last week — which saw the destruction of hundreds of regime tanks, artillery pieces and armored vehicles — came from a cheap but effective domestic drone program that NATO officials say has changed the military equation against Russia in Syria’s Idlib Province.

The confrontation began in late February. Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian air support and “special forces advisors”, began to push into Idlib, the last major area held by rebels against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s regime. Syria’s civil war has lasted nearly a decade.”

“Turkey’s response was to send thousands of regular army units into Idlib to prevent the pocket’s collapse.”

“Turkey has a new ace up its sleeve, one that forced Russia to think twice about escalating against President Recep Erdogan’s government, military sources told Insider.

Turkey’s offensive was conducted with about 100 domestically produced drones launching cheap guided munitions with deadly efficiency.”

“US policies restricting sales of armed drone technology to Turkey out of concerns the technology would be used on Kurdish targets as critical to the development of a domestic program. By 2007 the Turkish military had tired of limitations on what it could buy from the Americans. Disappointed by the poor performance of Israeli drones on the market, it then began to develop their own program.”

“While Turkey guards the exact cost of producing the Bayraktar TB2 as a state secret, it sold 12 drones and three ground command centers to Ukraine last year for $69 million. At less than $6 million per drone, the TB2 is about a third of the cost of the similarly capable US produced Reaper MQ-9, which retails for US allies at about $16 million a piece.”

The US and Taliban sign agreement meant to end America’s longest war

“Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, the US government has spent $2 trillion on the conflict, in which 3,500 American and NATO coalition troops have been killed and tens of thousands of Afghans have died.

The new agreement would put an end to that conflict, and includes a requirement that the Taliban find lasting peace with the Afghan government in exchange for the full withdrawal of troops — a requirement not present in all past versions of the deal.”

Turkey sends more troops, tanks to Syria amid Idlib assault

“For weeks, Syrian troops, backed by Russian air force, have been advancing in rebel territory as the cease-fire deal reached in 2018 unraveled. The offensive has displaced over half a million people, many of them arriving in open air and temporary shelters, often near the borders with Turkey. Idlib and nearby rural Aleppo are the last rebel-held areas in Syria and are home to more than 3 million people, most of them already displaced by previous rounds of violence.”

An expert on why the Soleimani assassination was almost certainly illegal

“in order for this strike to be legal without congressional authorization, it would have to be in response to an imminent threat to the United States. And then we immediately enter into a discussion about what “imminent” and “threat” actually mean.”

“Many of the people who have shaped our legal understanding of “imminent” over the years understood it to mean that the threat was unfolding right now and there’s no time to do anything other than to kill the person.
The Soleimani killing doesn’t appear to meet that threshold.”

“If this is just a thing we did, then Congress doesn’t need to be notified. But if it’s an act of war, then clearly Congress needs to be notified.”

“for better or worse, at a point where the majority of lawmakers have basically acquiesced to the administration’s interpretation of the law when it comes to war, and again, this goes back to the George W. Bush era. So if that’s the case, then eventually the law becomes whatever the current administration says it is. That’s where we are.”

“there were several AUMFs but none of them, in any way, were directed at Iran. Each of them very clearly gave the executive branch the power to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and later, ISIS in Iraq. And in fact, Iran has been on our side in the fight against ISIS and the Taliban. So there’s just no plausible legal justification under which you could stretch any of the AUMFs to include an attack on an Iranian official.”

In the event of war with Iran, the U.S. Navy’s small, aging force of Persian Gulf-based minesweepers would struggle to locate and disarm Iran’s underwater mines.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/more-mines-iran-ready-harass-and-destroy-us-navy-110791