Liz Cheney Joins Democrats Opposing Trump’s Afghanistan Withdrawal

Rep. Liz Cheney on FNC, 9/9/2019
(Screenshot/FNC)

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) co-sponsored an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) to place conditions on President Donald Trump related to a proposed troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Entitled the “Afghanistan Partnership and Transparency Act,” (APTA) the bill was passed by the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday night by a vote of 45-11.

In February, the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban towards ending conflict in Afghanistan and returning American troops to the homeland.

The joint Cheney-Crow legislation restricts the use of funds to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan below 8,000 if certain conditions are unmet. The amendment requires Defense Department “certification” of the following:

… that the intended withdrawal of the United States Armed Forces in Afghanistan—(A) will not compromise or otherwise negatively affect the ongoing United States counterterrorism mission against the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and associated forces; (B) will not unduly increase the risk to United States personnel in Afghanistan; (C) will not increase the risk for the expansion of existing or formation of new terrorist safe havens inside Afghanistan; will be undertaken with the consultation and coordination of allies supporting the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led missions; and (E) is in the best interest of United States national security and in furtherance of United States policy toward Afghanistan for achieving an enduring diplomatic solution.

Cheney issued the following statement regarding the APTA:

The al Qaeda-allied Taliban continues to wage deadly attacks across Afghanistan, al Qaeda leaders continue to find safe haven there from which to plot attacks, and the Islamic State continues to conduct active operations there. 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. 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 Intercept wrote of Trump’s stated intentions to withdraw military forces from Afghanistan and reports of the president’s requests of the Pentagon towards this end:

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.

In her rationale for the APTA, Cheney indirectly referred to a New York Times report — which was denied by the Defense Department — alleging the offering of bounties by Russian operatives to the Taliban for the killing of American soldiers. She said:

After today’s briefing with senior White House officials, we remain concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted U.S. 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.

Some Democrats and Republicans opposed the measure, including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Ro Khanna (D-CA).

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) characterized Trump’s desire to reduce America’s military presence in Afghanistan as evidence of the president being beholden to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Rep. Lindsey Graham encouraged Trump to defer to assessments from intelligence agencies in determinations regarding military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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