The total number of American troops deployed across the globe has dropped at a rapid rate over the past decade, with the Trump White House poised to accelerate the trend by drawing down major U.S. combat operations worldwide.
Just over 217,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, Airmen and Marines were deployed in various global hot spots in September 2017, representing a nearly 42% decline from 2008, according to figures in a new survey from USA Facts.
The reductions reflect a strategic change at the Pentagon and White House, as Washington as pulled away from large-scale military operations like those in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, in favor of smaller-scale military adviser missions — backed by local forces and allied nations — in Syria, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere.
The largest reduction in forces took place in Iraq and Kuwait. Just over 16,000 U.S. troops were stationed in both countries in the fall of 2017, nearly a 90 percent decrease from 153,000 nine years earlier.
Afghanistan also saw a 10,000-troop reduction between September 2008 to 2017, with a majority of those forces pulling out after the official end of U.S. combat operations in 2014. The number of U.S. forces around the world reached its peak in 2003, with 1.4 million active-duty troops deployed, at the height of the Iraq and Afghan wars.
Over the longer term, all of the U.S. military services have seen declines in overall membership compared to the levels seen at the height of the Cold War.
The Air Force had the biggest reductions, going from 557,000 Airmen in 1980 to just over 325,000. Army numbers fell from 777,000 in 1980 to 476,000 in 2017. Only the Marine Corps stayed fairly level, coming in at just over 185,000 in 20170 — down 3,000 from the 1980 level of about 188,000.