Donald Trump makes ‘earth-shaking defence and foreign policy’ changes before leaving White House by reducing troop levels In Afghanistan, Iraq

United States will reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January, before Joe Biden takes over.

The Pentagon also outlined a modest withdrawal of US forces days after Trump fired former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who had insisted on the need to maintain troop levels in Afghanistan to support the Kabul government while it negotiates a peace deal with the Taliban.

Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said about 2,000 troops would be pulled out of Afghanistan by January 15 and 500 more would come back from Iraq, leaving 2,500 in each country.

The moves reflect Trump’s policy “to bring the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to a successful and responsible conclusion and to bring our brave service members home”, Miller said.

Senior Republicans and US allies have voiced alarm at the announcement that a large number of American troops.

The head of Nato warned of a “very high price”. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the plan “a mistake”.

Mr McConnell – usually a staunch defender of Mr Trump – also warned the president against making “any earth-shaking changes in regards to defence and foreign policy” before leaving the White House.

President-elect Joe Biden who will take office on 20 January 2021 said he is “rightly weary of our longest war” in Afghanistan but also said there was a need to “end the war responsibly, in a manner that ensures we both guard against threats to our homeland and never have to go back”.