US House Passes Bill to Block Afghanistan Withdrawal

The House on Tuesday passed a $741 billion defense policy bill that would take steps to slow or block US President Trump’s planned drawdown of American troops from Germany and Afghanistan.

The bill contains a provision that would require the Trump administration to submit a comprehensive, interagency report and certification prior to obligating or expending funds to draw down US military personnel in Afghanistan “below troop levels of 8,000 and 4,000.”

The US Senate retumed with an amendment that would adjust the troop level thresholds, modify certain reporting requirements, and adjust the waiver available to the Secretary of Defense.

“The conferees reaffirm that it is in the national security interests of the US to deny terrorists safe haven in Afghanistan, protect the United States homeland, uphold the United States partnership with the Government of Afghanistan, and protect the hard-fought gains for the rights of women, girls, and other vulnerable populations in Afghanistan,” according to the US bill.

It also said that the conferees note the South Asia strategy emphasizes the importance of a conditions-based United States presence in Afghanistan in support of ongoing diplomatic efforts to secure a peaceful, negotiated solution to the conflict.

It’s also further note that any decision to reduce the armed forces of the United States in Afghanistan should be done in an orderly manner and in coordination with United States allies and partners and the Government of Afghanistan.

“Additionally, prior to withdrawal, the United States should seek to secure the release of any United States citizens being held against their will in Afghanistan,” it said adding that “The Administration has a constitutional obligation to provide the Congress and the American people with regular, timely, and comprehensive information on the status of security operations and diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan and across the globe.

“Today the House sent a strong, bipartisan message to the American people: Our service members and our national security are more important than politics,” Democratic Representative Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

A week ago, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon said that “We believe that now after 20 years — two decades of consistent effort there — we’ve achieved a modicum of success.”

“We went to Afghanistan … to ensure that Afghanistan never again became a platform for terrorists to strike the United States,” he said.

Milley also said that US troops will continue training Afghan and Iraqi combat forces after the partial US withdrawals from those nations ordered by President Donald Trump last month.

Trump ordered the new drawdowns to be completed by Jan. 15, five days before he leaves office.
The moves will leave about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.
However, he declined to provide many details about the US withdrawal plans for Afghanistan, citing security concerns.