Ever since Mr Donald Trump assumed the American presidency, the world has prepared for a period when principles and ideology-based strategic commitments would yield to a certain transactional approach to foreign policy from a leader whose mantra is "America First". Asian nations that have yoked their security to the United States, particularly Japan and South Korea, and non-treaty friends like Singapore and India, have also known they may need to prepare for the eventuality. Presidential whimsy, though, is another issue. Last week's resignation of US Defence Secretary James Mattis was brought on by Mr Trump's unexpected decision to pull US troops from Syria and make big cuts in those deployed in Afghanistan.
Both nations are frontline states in the war on extremism. To prematurely claim victory and withdraw boots on the ground is to be as disingenuous and harmful to global interests and to bringing peace and security in a volatile part of the world. No matter how powerful a nation's military, how accurate and lethal its drones and air force, there is something to be said about maintaining a presence on the ground, and contributing to prevent continued bloodshed. US intelligence reports and the assessment of countries in the coalition holding the line against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria suggest that over 11,000 ISIS cadres remain active in Syria alone. In Afghanistan, more than half the territory is held by fighters from the Taleban, ISIS and assorted odious forces.