Panel of Experts, House Armed Services Leadership, Disagree with Trump Administration Troop Drawdown
In a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee today, Chairman Adam Smith and Ranking Member Mac Thornberry both expressed concerns about the Trump Administration's hasty troop drawdown in Afghanistan announced by the Trump administration earlier this week. The need for a deliberate and well-thought out policy for U.S. engagement in Afghanistan to combat transnational terrorist threats and protect U.S. national security is one of the few issues that has broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. The Honorable Ryan Crocker, former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, noted in his testimony that Afghanistan is the rare case where U.S. values overlap with U.S. interests and “it is folly to think that a full U.S. withdrawal will somehow make us safer or uphold our core values.” Crocker was joined at the hearing by Dr. Stephen Biddle of Columbia University and the Council on Foreign Relations, and Dr. Seth Jones of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The panel of experts were critical of the Trump Administration’s troop drawdown. They recommended the U.S. exercise strategic patience and secure concessions from the Taliban before further troop drawdowns. Dr. Jones made the point that the Taliban is an extremist organization that maintains close links to Al Qaeda, and that Congress should keep pressure on the Taliban over the role of women. Regarding the ANDSF, the experts noted that the area of most success has been the commando units, which have been directly trained by U.S. special forces. The troop drawdown hampers the effectiveness of the Train Advise and Assist Mission, limiting the ability of U.S. forces to provide much needed training to ANDSF forces at the tactical level. Dr. Biddle noted that the ANDSF will not be able to defeat the Taliban insurgency on its own, and Ambassador Crocker added that airstrikes are the critical military support the U.S. can provide.