Defense

Top Democrat calls Trump’s Afghan drawdown ‘the right policy decision’ as others warn of ‘mistake’

The Democratic chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is backing the Trump administration’s drawdown in Afghanistan even as other lawmakers in both parties warn about the dangers of a hasty withdrawal.

“After speaking with the acting secretary this morning, I believe reducing our forward deployed footprint in Afghanistan down to 2,500 troops is the right policy decision,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said in a statement Tuesday.

“At the same time, this reduction must be responsibly and carefully executed to ensure stability in the region,” he added.

Smith’s statement comes after acting Defense Secretary Christoper Miller announced President Trump has ordered the U.S. military to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by Jan. 15, days before Trump will leave office. Trump has also ordered a drawdown in Iraq to 2,500 troops from 3,000 by the same deadline.

The announcement follows a leadership purge at the Pentagon last week, including the firing of Mark Esper as Defense secretary, seen as paving the way for troop withdrawals.

It also comes after months of statements from U.S. military officials that the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan do not warrant dropping below 4,500 troops, and that the Taliban has not upheld its end of this year’s agreement with the United States.

The deal, signed in February, calls for a full U.S. withdrawal by this coming May if the Taliban upholds counterterrorism commitments such as denying safe haven to al Qaeda.

In addition to not yet breaking with al Qaeda, the Taliban stepped up attacks on Afghan forces after signing the deal, eliciting repeated condemnations from U.S. officials. A Pentagon watchdog also confirmed earlier Tuesday that the Taliban has attacked the U.S.-led coalition in violation of the deal.

In his statement, Smith argued that “Americans and Afghans alike are ready for the violence to end” after nearly 20 years of war.

“It is clear that groups like ISIS-K and the Taliban will continue to fight and sow chaos, but ultimately it is up to the Afghans to find a sustainable path to peace,” he said.

Still, Smith said the drawdown should be coordinately “closely” with allies, something the Trump administration has not yet done.

“Our primary goal has been, and continues to be, the prevention of transnational terrorists from launching an attack against the United States from Afghanistan,” he said. “In order to contain the terrorist threat as we draw down our troop levels, it is critical that we coordinate the drawdown closely with our allies, as well as our partners in the Afghan government, to protect our interests and those of our allies in Afghanistan.”

Miller called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday and also spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the announcement. Stoltenberg issued a strong statement Tuesday morning warning that “the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high.”

Senate Armed Services Committee James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a staunch Trump supporter, also signaled support for the drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying Miller and national security adviser Robert O’Brien assured him they are “consulting with our allies, and that, with their plan, we will be able to carry out our mission of protecting the American people from terrorist attacks originating in Afghanistan, safeguarding Afghan gains and supporting our partners and allies.”

But Inhofe also said he is awaiting more details from the Pentagon and from the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, Gen. Scott Miller.

“As we evaluate the situation in Afghanistan and coordinate with our allies, we must ensure that our strategy and posture reflect the conditions on the ground,” Inhofe said in a statement.

Other lawmakers in both parties blasted the drawdowns.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned it would be a “mistake” to precipitously yank troops from Afghanistan or Iraq and urged the administration to make no major defense or foreign policy changes for the rest of the year.

The top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Mac Thornberry (Texas), also called the drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq a “mistake.”

“Further reductions in Afghanistan will also undercut negotiations there; the Taliban has done nothing – met no condition — that would justify this cut,” Thornberry, who is retiring from Congress at the end of the year, said in a statement.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq veteran, similarly warned about undermining intra-Afghan peace talks.

“At a time when we are finally seeing serious peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Donald Trump is unilaterally taking one of our best bargaining chips off the table—and getting nothing in return,” Duckworth said.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) called the drawdowns a “retreat.”

“Headlines about ‘bringing the boys home’ sound good, but that’s not what’s happening,” he said in a statement. “I fear this weak retreat is not grounded in reality and will make the world a more dangerous place.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), a frequent foil for Trump on foreign policy, called on the administration to “reconsider and reverse this politically-motivated decision and avoid worsening our national security challenges.”

The ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), said Trump is “choosing the wrong way” to draw down.

“Instead of heeding the advice of national security professionals and working with our allies, President Trump is venting his frustration over losing the election in a manner that is more costly, jeopardizes our military personnel, aids the Taliban and terrorist networks, and emboldens those who want greater conflict with Iran,” Reed said in a statement.

“Like all Americans, I want our military personnel brought home as soon as possible,” Reed added. “But there is a difference between a strategic, coordinated drawdown and rash, reckless abandonment of the mission and our partners and allies.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested the drawdowns are intended to “undermine” the incoming Biden administration.

Senate Armed Services Committee Democrats Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and Tim Kaine (Va.) also referenced Trump’s loss to Democrat Joe Biden in this month’s presidential election, with Shaheen saying drawing down is “all the more dangerous” while Trump continues to refuse to concede.

“We need to bring our troops home, but we must do so as part of a strategy that does not jeopardize the safety of Americans in the U.S. and abroad,” Kaine said in his statement. “There was no doubt the final days of this administration would be tumultuous, but the haphazard nature of President Trump’s decision will harm our national security and jeopardize countless American, Afghan, and Iraqi lives.”

Tags Adam Smith Afghanistan Ben Sasse Donald Trump Iraq Jack Reed Jeanne Shaheen Jim Inhofe Joe Biden Mac Thornberry Mark Esper Mitch McConnell Mitt Romney Steny Hoyer Tammy Duckworth Tim Kaine

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Regular the hill posts

People – Image widget – Person – Main Area Top

File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
File - A Chevrolet Bolt is displayed at the Philadelphia Auto Show, Jan. 27, 2023, in Philadelphia. Electric vehicles are far less reliable than gasoline-powered cars, trucks and SUVs, mainly because most automakers are still learning how to build a completely new power system, according to this year's auto reliability survey by Consumer Reports.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

QAT WC-2613

People – Image – Person

In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)
In this photo released by the Governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhayev telegram channel, a rescuer gestures as he helps people during an evacuation after storm and flooding in Sevastopol, Crimea, Monday, Nov. 27, 2023. A storm in the Black Sea took down power grids and left almost half a million people without power after it flooded roads, ripped up trees and damaged buildings in Crimea, Russian state news agency Tass said. (Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev's telegram channel via AP)

People - Video Bin - Person

The White House is pushing 'Bidenomics,' but what does it mean?

The White House is pushing 'Bidenomics,' but what ...
DC Bureau: AI Legal Immunity (raquel)
KXAN: special session
DC Bureau: Biden economic display (basil)
KTXL: ca budget folo
WHTM: good gov bills
More Videos

Main area middle

main area bottom custom html

MAIN Area bottom

People – Custom HTML – Person

MAIN AREA BOTTOM

People - Article Bin - 7 Headline List with Featured Image - Person

Main area bottom

Most Popular

Load more