US lawmakers press for Congress to have ‘thorough oversight’ of Afghanistan troop drawdown
By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 26, 2020
KABUL, Afghanistan — A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has introduced a bill that would require Congress to oversee the drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan, amid concerns that too rapid a withdrawal would threaten U.S. and global security.
The bill, introduced Thursday by two Republican and two Democratic lawmakers, including former Army Ranger Jason Crow, D-Colo., and former Green Beret Michael Waltz, R-Fla., comes after a New York Times report said the White House and Pentagon were considering options for the withdrawal, including having troops out of the country before November’s presidential election.
The Afghanistan Partnership and Transparency Act, introduced by Crow, Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Susan Davis, D-Calif., and Waltz, would require the Trump administration to submit reports, compiled with the Pentagon, State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, before troop numbers are reduced to below 8,000 and 5,000.
The reports would assess how a drawdown could affect U.S. national security, along with its potential effect on allies and partners, and the impact on Afghans, the lawmakers said in a statement. The bill includes provisions to prevent the reports from being retroactively classified.
The reports would also be required to assess the “relationship between the Taliban and al Qaeda,” and the “influence of malign state actors on Afghan sovereignty,” the statement said.
“The war in Afghanistan must end, but we must do so in a way that ensures lasting peace,” Crow said in the statement. “This bill is transformative in its ability to ensure that we keep our promise — to the women and children of Afghanistan, to our partners and allies in peacekeeping, and to a safer, and more secure world order.”
The U.S. and Taliban agreed in a deal signed Feb. 29 that all American troops would leave Afghanistan by next summer, but only if the Taliban had met certain conditions, including severing ties with al-Qaida and other extremist groups and preventing them from using Afghanistan as a springboard for attacks on the U.S. and its allies.
But some members of Congress, including Cheney, who’ve seen classified sections of the February deal, have said it does not include ways to measure Taliban compliance.
“America’s troop presence in Afghanistan is critical to ensuring the safety of the American people at home — but the U.S.-Taliban deal allows for premature troop withdrawal that is not conditions-based,” she said. “This legislation will help ensure that Congress and the American people are fully informed about America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan and the impact it is having and will have on our security.”
The U.S. went into Afghanistan to try to dismantle al-Qaida — the masterminds of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks — and oust the Taliban, who ruled the country at the time and had given shelter to the terrorist group.
President Donald Trump campaigned on ending the U.S.’s so-called “forever wars,” and has repeatedly said during his presidency that American troops in Afghanistan should be brought home.
But pulling out too soon “could open the door for a re-escalation of violence and could be a step backwards for the hard-fought gains made for women, religious minorities and regional stability,” Waltz said.
The U.S. has “met our part of the agreement,” and reduced troop levels from roughly 13,000 when the U.S.-Taliban deal was signed to 8,600, U.S. Central Command’s Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, who oversees American troops in the region, said last week. But a full withdrawal by May next year would depend on the Taliban meeting commitments they made in the deal, he said.