23.11.2020 Author: Vladimir Danilov

Military’s Agony at the End of the Trump Era


During his presidency, the current boss of the White House has repeatedly, actively tried to play the “war card” to gain support for his policies – and not only from the American military, but also from the nation’s general public subjected to stepped up propaganda from the government and Hollywood about the alleged existence of “super fighters” and “super weapons” in the United States. However, this game by Donald Trump ran its course, and without any clear successes for him.

Right up to the infamous presidential elections on November 3, he actively demonstrated his concern for the American armed forces, brushing aside various (and, of course, justified) criticisms from opponents due to the US Army’s declining combat capability over the past three years, and it lagging, in terms of developing new types of weapons, behind Russia, a country that not only has surpassed America in the hypersonics race, but has also come very close to developing a weapon capable of intercepting hypersonic missiles.

One month ago, during a speech to supporters in Wisconsin, Donald Trump was even forced to announce that the United States had invested USD 2.5 trillion in its Armed Forces, hoping to win “thunderous applause”. However, he did not get that, since everyone today already grasps that this astronomical amount of money was spent not on caring for US armed forces veterans, who do not receive sufficient medicines or the care that they need in social institutions and hospitals, but on increasingly enriching the elite in the US military-industrial complex.

As far as the “super weapon” that Donald Trump periodically boasted of in his speeches goes, giving publicity to a “super bomb” or a “super-duper rocket”, one should at least remember the “mother of all bombs” actively touted by him: the GBU-43 / B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), which was first deployed by the US on April 13, 2017 in combat in Afghanistan. As it turned out, its effect was by no means as “rousing” as the boss of the White House would have liked. Despite its very impressive declared characteristics (the weight of the bomb is 9.5 tons, the force of the explosion reaches 11 tons TNT equivalent, and destruction occurs at a distance of up to 1.5 kilometers from the epicenter), according to a statement from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense using this “super bomb” worth USD 17 million killed only 30 (!) militants from the DAESH terrorist group (banned in the Russian Federation – ed.). That means the cost of destroying each of the militants was USD 566 thousand!  If each fighter received USD 10,000 per year, i.e. five times more than the national average income, he would be able to live comfortably (by Afghan standards) for more than 50 years, and would not be involved in spreading any kind of terror. In other words, if US helicopters simply flew over Afghanistan and scattered USD 17 million over its villages then the effect could be more impressive than intimidating mountain goats in the Hindu Kush valleys.

Under these conditions, and realizing that the crowning twist in his presidential powers has arrived anyway, Donald Trump urgently began to play another card – reducing the number of American troops abroad under the humane pretext of “ending the armed conflicts in which the US participates”. And now, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, who took the position after Mark Esper recently resigned, announced the Trump administration’s intent to reduce the American military contingent in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 soldiers by mid-January, when the inauguration of the country’s new president is scheduled. According to the plan, by January 15, 2021, the number of US troops in Iraq will have decrease from 3,000 to 2,500, and in Afghanistan from more than 4,500 to 2,500.

Back in October, Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that such plans are very popular with a significant portion of Americans, who want to “bring their guys home” and not get involved in any new wars in the Middle East, and by virtue of this he promised that the remaining American service personnel in Afghanistan would return home by Christmas. Some American media outlets, responding to this news from the White House, noted that “if the information is true, then Trump will indeed go down in history as one of the most peace-loving presidents”.

However, according to Reuters US President Donald Trump, during his remaining two months in the White House, also decided to withdraw almost all American troops from Somalia, drawing on the example of cutting the American contingent in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is worth reiterating that currently there are about 700 American service personnel in Somalia assisting the local authorities in suppressing the extremist group Al-Shabaab (banned in the Russian Federation – Ed.)., which has ties to the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization (banned in Russia – Ed.). However, Colonel Ahmed Abdullahi Sheikh, who served as commander of the Somali Danab special forces for three years (until 2019), told Reuters that such a move could undermine the credibility of the United States in the region.

Along with this, the obvious agony of the American military tossing to and fro began between two hotbeds: Syria and Iraq. The Syrian news agency SANA reported that on November 18 a convoy of American troops, which consisted of 60 trucks carrying military equipment and weapons, was headed from Syria to Iraq through the Al Waleed border crossing (one of the three official border checkpoints between the two Arab republics) in eastern Syria. Along with that, it should be noted that in every recent month information has arrived from the region about movement by the US military in the opposite direction, from Iraq to Syria, taking into account the Pentagon’s earlier decision to reduce the US presence in Iraqi territory. And at the end of September, the Turkish news agency Anadolu reported that US Armed Forces continued to reinforce their bases in northeastern Syria, redeploying additional armored vehicles and military cargo shipments from northern Iraq.

But Trump has recently been trying to demonstrate his desire to reduce the US military contingent not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe, forcing “European allies” to pay more for their security.  For example, as of September, according to the Pentagon 63,800 US military service personnel were located in Europe. If reservists and civil servants are added to this number, the American contingent in Europe totals more than 80,000 people. In July, the White House announced that 6,400 American troops would return to the United States from Germany, and several thousand more would be relocated elsewhere in Europe, with some of them heading further east, closer to Russia.

According to American media, citing Joe Biden’s team, the Democrat does not plan to comment on the decision made by the Trump administration to reduce the number of American soldiers abroad, and is clearly counting on being able to re-examine that decision.

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Please select digest to download: