Announcement comes while White House blocks President-elect's team - Alice Barr reports
WASHINGTON, D.C. (KYMA, KECY/NBC News) - The Trump administration announced Tuesday the U.S. will pull more troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq. That leaves just 2,500 American service members in each country just days before Joe Biden takes his oath as President of the United States of America.
"They'll defend our diplomats and deter our foes. By May it is President Trump's hope that they will come home safely and in their entirety." said National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien.
Critics worry the hasty draw-down might once again make the region a haven for terrorists.
"He is putting our troops in harm's way by rapidly withdrawing them without a clear plan." said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, (D-Ill.).
Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), a Trump ally, warned against the move.
"I think a precipitous drawdown in either Afghanistan or Iraq would be a mistake." said Sen. McConnell.
Still being denied access to the top level intelligence briefings incoming administrations normally receive, President-elect Biden met Tuesday with diplomatic intelligence and defense experts from outside the government.
"You want a peaceful transfer of power and you want the new team to succeed - we don't have any of that right now." said former NATO Ambassador Nicholas Burns.
The Biden team will face critical day-one challenges on multiple fronts.
Leaders of some of the nation's top medical associations joined. in a letter urging President Donald Trump to share COVID-19 data with the incoming administration.
As a growing number of Trump's legal challenges fizzle out in the courts, top allies insist the remaining cases should be allowed to play out.
"If President Trump's claims have been rejected by the court, the election will be over." said Sen. Lindsey Graham, (R-S.C.).
Despite the delays, the President-elect is moving forward naming more members of his senior staff, many of them women, reflecting promises of diversity.
NBC News has learned Biden hopes to avoid investigations into his predecessor once he takes office, worrying that inquiries into President Trump's finances, or other matters, could further divide the country and consume the Biden Presidency.