In what appears to be the first major step toward ending America’s involvement in a war fought for nearly two decades, the president has decided to cut the US military presence in Afghanistan in half, The Wall Street Journal reported. There are currently roughly 14,000 American service members in the war-torn country.
News of the withdrawal comes just one day after Trump declared victory over ISIS and announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, a move that reportedly drove the president’s secretary of defense to resign from his position Dec. 20, 2018.
“I think it shows how serious the president is about wanting to come out of conflicts,” one senior U.S. official told TheWSJ. “I think he wants to see viable options about how to bring conflicts to a close.”
Another official told The New York Times that the Afghan forces, which have suffered unbelievably high casualties, need to learn to stand on their own, something senior military leaders have suggested they may not yet be ready to do.
Troops secure a landing zone in Afghanistan.
US military leaders, most recently Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, have characterized the war in Afghanistan as a “stalemate” with no end in sight. A total of 14 American service members have died in Afghanistan this year, six in the last two months alone.
US troops are both training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and carrying out counterterrorism operations against regional terror groups, like ISIS and Al Qaeda. In September 2017, Trump ordered the deployment of an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan.
The decision to reduce the number of US troops in country to roughly half their current levels was reportedly made at the same time Trump decided to withdraw from Syria.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.