Friday, July 3, 2020

House Democrats, Working With Liz Cheney, Restrict Trump’s Planned Withdrawal of Troops From Afghanistan and Germany

By Glenn Greenwald - July 03, 2020 at 10:51AM

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The US military has been fighting in Afghanistan for almost nineteen years. House Democrats, working in tandem with key pro-war GOP lawmakers such as Rep. Liz Cheney, are ensuring that continues.

Last night, the House Armed Services Committee voted overwhelmingly in favor of an amendment — jointly sponsored by Democratic Congressman Jason Crow of Colorado and Congresswoman Cheney of Wyoming — prohibiting the expenditure of monies to reduce the number of US troops deployed in Afghanistan below 8,000 without a series of conditions first being met.

The imposed conditions are by no means trivial: for these troop reductions from Afghanistan to be allowed, the Defense Department must be able to certify, among other things, that leaving Afghanistan “will not increase the risk for the expansion of existing or formation of new terrorist safe havens inside Afghanistan” and “will not compromise or otherwise negatively affect the ongoing United States counter terrorism mission against the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and associated forces.”

The Crow/Cheney amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last night passed by a vote of 45-11. The NDAA was then unanimously approved by the Committee by a vote of 56-0. It authorizes $740.5 billion in military spending — roughly three times more than the world’s second-highest spender, China.

President Trump throughout the year has insisted that the Pentagon present plans for withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan prior to the end of 2020. Last week, reports indicated that “the Trump administration is close to finalizing a decision to withdraw more than 4,000 troops from Afghanistan by the fall.” Trump’s plan “would reduce the number of troops from 8,600 to 4,500 and would be the lowest number since the very earliest days of the war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001.” In February, Trump announced an agreement with the Taliban to end the war completely.

Shortly after those White House withdrawal plans were reported, anonymous intelligence officials leaked a series of claims to the New York Times regarding “bounties” allegedly being paid by Russia to Taliban fighters to kill US troops. Those leaks emboldened opposition to troop withdrawal from Afghanistan on the ground that it would be capitulating to Russian treachery. It was that New York Times leak that Liz Cheney, along with GOP Congressman Mac Thornberry, cited in a joint statement on Monday to suggest troop withdrawal would be precipitous:

“After today’s briefing with senior White House officials, we remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted US forces. It has been clear for some time that Russia does not wish us well in Afghanistan. We believe it is important to vigorously pursue any information related to Russia or any other country targeting our forces. Congress has no more important obligation than providing for the security of our nation and ensuring our forces have the resources they need. We anticipate further briefings on this issue in the coming days.”

The Crow/Cheney amendment impeding Trump’s withdrawal plan asserted that “a rapid military drawdown and a lack of United States commitment to the security and stability of Afghanistan would undermine diplomatic efforts for peace” (only the US could malign a troop withdrawal plan after a 19 year-old war as “rapid”). Their amendment also claims that “the current agreement between the United States and the Taliban does not provide for the appropriate protections for vulnerable populations, does not create conditions for the rejection of violence and prevention of terrorist safe havens, and does not represent a realistic diplomatic solution, based on verifiable facts and conditions on the ground, that provides for long-term stability”

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