Aug 21, 2017

U.S. troops and contractors in Afghanistan by year

President Trump will address the nation regarding his strategy in Afghanistan tonight. Here's how many U.S. troops and contractors were in the country through as of late-2016, and the 8 years prior, according to an April report from the Congressional Research Service.

Data: Congressional Research Service; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Some takeaways from the report:

  • The latest available figures from Q4 of FY2016 show 9,800 troops in Afghanistan, down from about 100,000 in 2011.
  • Contractors have frequently made up over half of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan — in Q4 of FY2016, 72 percent of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan consisted of contractors.
  • About 3 percent of these contractors were armed private security contractors.

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Where U.S. troops and military assets are deployed in the Middle East

An American soldier stands guard during a joint patrol with Turkish troops in the Syrian village of al-Hashisha. Photo: Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. has maintained a costly presence in the Middle East for decades, with at least 60,000 troops currently stationed around the region, according to United States Central Command.

Driving the news: The killing of Iran's Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a U.S. drone strike has put the world on edge, with Iran promising revenge. The U.S. is preparing to deploy about 3,000 additional troops to the region, and had already sent 750 troops after protesters attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 8, 2020 - World

Trump may reduce troops in Afghanistan without Taliban deal

Taliban leaders during peace talks with the U.S. in July in Qatar. Photo: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images.

White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien told Axios in an exclusive interview that "it is possible" Trump will cut a deal with the Taliban this year but that even if a deal can't be struck, the president is still poised to reduce troops in Afghanistan.

Driving the news: "We're back in a situation where we're in talks with the Taliban," O'Brien said. "The Afghan forces are doing better, and I think we'll be in a position at some point soon, whether it's with a deal or without a deal, to reduce our military footprint in Afghanistan."

Go deeperArrowJan 12, 2020

U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan

A U.S. armored vehicle in Afghanistan in 2011. Photo: Bay Ismoyo/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. service member was "killed in action" in Afghanistan on Monday, a Defense Department statement said, per Stars and Stripes. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the "blast in the northern province of Kunduz," Reuters reports.

The big picture: 20 American troops who have been killed in combat operations in Afghanistan — the most in one year to die fighting militant groups there since 2014, "when the Pentagon euphemistically announced the 'end of combat operations," the New York Times notes.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Dec 23, 2019