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house Bill H.R. 2060

Should at Least 10,000 U.S. Troops Remain in Afghanistan Until the Taliban Meet Certain Conditions?

Argument in favor

The Taliban in Afghanistan is stronger than ever, and the Afghan security forces’ ranks are thinned after heavy losses in 2018. Now, more than ever, the Afghan government needs U.S. support, so a future troop drawdown should be carefully planned to avoid a withdrawal that creates a vacuum that benefits the Taliban.

Jonathan's Opinion
···
07/26/2019
This is an incredibly complex issue, and there’s no simple or short way through it. The country was in chaos before we got there and it’s still in chaos. It’s a dangerous situation for both the United States and Afghanistan. In a sense, we have a responsibility to the Afghan people, particularly after how things went in the ‘80s. We used the people to fight the Soviets and then we abandoned them to chaos and destruction. I’ve been to remote villages in Afghanistan while working with an NGO and the people live in fear of them. In one case, we weren’t allowed to spend time in a village because of the fear of the Taliban. I spent time in an orphanage. I spent time traversing the rough terrain and nearly impossible roads. Afghanistan used to be a modern and progressive country before being taken over by religious zealots, and there are still remnants of that more contemporary culture, even in some of the outer cities, like soccer stadiums that eventually got repurposed by the Taliban for public executions. I think that our approach in pushing a specific system of government on them was a mistake; we need to let them find their own way and then support the leadership. We need to commit to helping them become more independent. Simply dropping them because it’s not convenient or because it doesn’t immediately serve the interests of the United States is a mistake. We need more people on the ground, but not only soldiers. We need engineers and construction crews and communications specialists to help them rebuild the broken down infrastructure, such as the roads and communications. We need to put people there to plant trees, install solar and other alternative power sources. I was there in the middle of winter when there was no fuel for heat, such as wood, and no running water because of frozen and burst water lines. Some people there want their village life, but others want modernization, including libraries and schools. There needs to be a real evaluation of what the population wants and endeavor to assist them in achieving it. Food and shelter and warmth and access to roads and communications. Not just guns in the hands of soldiers. Some muscle is important when facing bullies and terrorists, but without investing in the people, it’s moot. It was largely like the Middle Ages/Dark Ages when I was there, except that there were some cars and some people had mobile phones, and just as Europeans made it through into the Renaissance era, so, too, can the people of Afghanistan. We can choose to be a part of that, to do good in the world, or we can abandon them.
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RjGoodman's Opinion
···
07/27/2019
While I don’t know if 10,000 is the magic number, we need to finish what we started in Afghanistan. We have to treat it as a nation building project and not just a military operation.
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Deborah's Opinion
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07/26/2019
We’re always pulling out too soon and just having to send more back over later. Don’t half-ass it. Stay in there and finish the job!
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Argument opposed

After over two decades in Afghanistan, the U.S. has nothing more to give. The nation-building attempt has failed: it’s time to acknowledge this reality, bring U.S. troops home, and focus on counterterrorism efforts alone. It should be up to the Afghan government to stand on its own against the Taliban.

burrkitty's Opinion
···
07/26/2019
There are kids deployed in Afghanistan NOW that hadn’t been born when we started this charade of war on the wrong target. WE HAVE ALREADY LOST. Stop throwing away our money on all these stupid endless wars. Als I fundamentally reject the premise of this bill. The “conditions” are literally written to be all but impossible to fulfill. This bill exists to force us to stay at war FOREVER. END FOREVER WARS!
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Robert 's Opinion
···
07/26/2019
“America Has Been at War 93% of the Time – 222 out of 239 Years – Since 1776 “- Global Research. War, including our invasion of Afghanistan, is an outmoded way of trying to resolve human problems. We should get out of all countries we have invaded. Save lives and give Peace a chance.
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IllWill's Opinion
···
07/26/2019
This war in Afghanistan has been a disaster and has cost the lives of many troops and trillions of dollars! We can’t be responsible for this country anymore! Pull all the troops out and let Afghanistan solve its own problems! Afghanistan is not a client state of the U.S.!
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Armed Services
    IntroducedApril 3rd, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 2060?

This bill — the Ensuring a Secure Afghanistan Act — would give Congress oversight over talks between the U.S. and the Taliban in Afghanistan to ensure that an American troop withdrawal would only occur after the fulfillment of certain conditions. It’d prevent funds provided to the Dept. of Defense (DOD) for FY 2019 from being used to reduce U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan below 10,000 active duty members until the Director of National Intelligence certifies the Taliban have met several criteria that are described below.

The conditions for an American troop withdrawal would include:

  • The Taliban’s leadership and members’ rejection of al Qaeda by name;
  • The cutting of the Taliban’s ties, both military and financial, with al Qaeda;
  • A cessation of the Taliban’s acceptance of funding and military support from foreign organizations;
  • Active Taliban participation in future American-led counterterrorism organizations;
  • The Taliban’s public recognition of the Afghan Constitution legitimacy; and
  • The Taliban’s public recognition of women’s and girls’ civil rights, including rights to access public healthcare, hold property, access education, and have freedom of movement.

Impact

Military; U.S. troops in Afghanistan; Afghanistan; Taliban; al Qaeda; Afghan women; Afghan girls; Afghan Constitution; U.S.-Taliban negotiations; and the Director of National Intelligence.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 2060

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Jim Banks (R-IN) introduced this bill to ensure that certain conditions are met before U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan are allowed to fall below 10,000:

“Every American longs for the day when U.S. troops will return home from Afghanistan after a nearly two decade struggle against those responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. However, we cannot afford to be overly eager to strike any deal, especially a bad one, that looks to satisfy short term political pressures at the risk of long-term national security threats.  The failed blunders of history, especially President Obama’s disastrous Iraq withdrawal, have demonstrated the grave risks posed by power vacuums in unstable regions of the world that were caused by a premature retreat. As the Administration negotiates with our adversaries to set the terms for a drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the Ensuring a Secure Afghanistan Act would set the conditions by which a safe and responsible agreement should be reached.  Should America not get this right the first time, ISIS-K and al Qaeda patiently wait to fill the void.”

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), an original cosponsor of this bill, adds that there’s an immediate danger of terrorism spreading from Afghanistan if the withdrawal of U.S. troops is improperly handled or premature:

“The American homeland is endangered when Afghanistan is used as a safe haven for terrorism. We saw the consequences of prematurely withdrawing troops from Iraq under President Obama and we cannot make that mistake in Afghanistan. We don’t win wars by leaving… The Islamic State is conducting active operations in Afghanistan and is estimated to have thousands of militants there. Meanwhile, al Qaeda has maintained its strong relationship with the Taliban. Afghan forces continue to sustain great casualties in their struggle against the Taliban, even with U.S. assistance. Considering the conditions on the ground, U.S. troops must continue the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan in support of their ultimate mission: keeping America safe.”

In an op-ed in the Casper Star Tribune, Wyoming State Sen. Brian Boner (R) expresses his support for this bill and argues that the Middle East’s recent history — and particularly the consequences of 2011’s premature retreat from Iraq — indicates that “premature withdrawal” from places such as Afghanistan and Syria may have disastrous long-term consequences:

“All we need to do is look at the recent history of the region to understand premature withdrawal will have disastrous consequences. Before President Obama ordered the retreat of the US military from Iraq in 2011, the situation was stable. By withdrawing based on arbitrary political timelines instead of conditions on the ground, the previous administration gave ISIS a foothold. By 2015 these terrorists were able to orchestrate attacks such as the one in Paris which killed 130 civilians. The ‘successes’ of this terrorist organization even inspired home grown terrorists to carry out attacks in San Bernardino, CA and Orlando, FL, killing dozens of Americans. While there are no absolute guarantees of security against such an enemy, the fact that these sorts of attacks subsided as ISIS started losing ground in Iraq and Syria is no coincidence. Additionally, such a lack of political resolve only emboldens other adversaries with far more serious capabilities to threaten our security. The power vacuum in Syria has allowed for increased Russian interference in the region. While the rise of ISIS was not the only factor which led to this development, it does beg the question of who fills the power vacuums created by an arbitrary withdrawal of US forces. In almost every instance, it isn’t a country or organization that shares our values or security objectives… Moving forward, we must not repeat the mistakes of the previous administration… The Ensuring a Secure Afghanistan Act would prevent a premature withdrawal of our forces before certain criteria are met, such as the Taliban recognizing the legitimacy of the Afghan government and breaking ties with terrorist organizations. Such a policy ensures we leave Afghanistan in a responsible manner which will not force us to return later. I share the hope that one day we can bring all our military home. But making decisions based on politics instead of reality will only serve to extend the Global War on Terror.”

President Trump has long criticized the war in Afghanistan, expressing desire to completely withdraw U.S. troops in the past. He announced his intention to pull U.S. troops from both Afghanistan and Syria in December 2018. On December 19, 2018, Trump directed then-Defense Secretary James Mattis to reduce U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan by half while also completely withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria. In his State of the Union address at the beginning of 2019, Trump touted “constructive talks” between the U.S. and Taliban. He said, “we do not know whether we will achieve an agreement -- but we do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace."

However, many senators in both parties believe the U.S. faces continuing threats from terrorist groups operating in Syria and Afghanistan, and that that a “precipitous withdrawal” of U.S. forces from either country could put hard-won gains and U.S. national security interests at risk. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressed these sentiments in January 2019, saying that there’s a “need for diplomatic engagement and political solutions to the underlying conflcits in Syria and Afghanistan.”

Writing in The National Interest, Washington, D.C.-based foreign policy writer Jerrod A. Laber argues it’s time to “acknowledge the limits of U.S. power” and withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, irregardless of the conditions of the withdrawal:

“For advocates of foreign policy restraint, every new American death represents the moral imperative for U.S. withdrawal from the region. To the Trump administration’s credit, U.S. envoys have been in discussions with the Taliban for months, seeking a possible end to the now almost eighteen-year-old war. But these efforts have been met largely with derision inside the D.C. Beltway. Representatives Jim Banks and Liz Cheney went so far as to introduce the ‘Ensuring a Secure Afghanistan Act’... to prevent a possible drawdown in Afghanistan if they are not satisfied with the details of any U.S.-Taliban deal. It is true that without U.S. support, Afghanistan would crumble, and, most likely, crumble fast. But as the latest report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) shows clearly, Washington’s nation-building project has failed. Nearly two decades of American investment has produced no enduring progress and in some cases—such as corruption—actually made things worse. More money, time, and precious life will not produce a secure and stable Afghanistan. The best path for the United States is to leave, ending the facade of state-building, and focusing solely on counterterrorism… Nearly eighteen years of reconstruction and state-building efforts have failed. The logic of exit rests not on trust in the Taliban but on the threat of punishment. Even the most fervent advocates of restraint acknowledge that counterterrorism activities in the face of an imminent threat are justified. But that doesn’t mean America has to continue risking the lives of thousands of U.S. troops in the hopes of finding the magic formula for rebuilding Afghanistan.”

Writing for the RAND Corporation in January 2019, James Dobbins, Jason H. Campbell, Sean Mann, and Laurel E. Miller argued that while “winning may not be an available option” in Afghanistan, “losing certainly is.” They contended:

“A precipitous departure, no matter how rationalized, will mean choosing to lose. The result would be a blow to American credibility, the weakening of deterrence and the value of U.S. reassurance elsewhere, an increased terrorist threat emanating from the Afghan region, and the distinct possibility of a necessary return there under worse conditions.”

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in February 2019, German Chancellor Angela Merkel questioned the wisdom of a rapid U.S. withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan. She also cautioned that the NATO mission in Afghanistan is dependent on U.S. participation.

This bill has four Republican cosponsors.


Of NoteSince U.S. military forces first arrived in Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. has lost about 2,300 troops in the conflict. It’s also appropriated about $126 billion for relief and reconstruction, including $78 billion for security.

Since 2018. U.S. officials have held “several rounds” of talks with the Taliban in Qatar, in what’s widely perceived to be the most serious bid for peace yet in the U.S. 17-year engagement in Afghanistan. Currently, the Taliban considers Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government a puppet regime controlled by the U.S. Accordingly, it refuses to deal directly with Ghani’s government and its representatives in peace talks.

In December 2018, U.S. defense officials confirmed that the U.S. was considering withdrawing as many as 7,000 of the approximately 14,000 U.S. forces deployed in Afghanistan. However, as of February 2019, those plans are reported to be “in a holding pattern” based on what Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad comes back with.

In early February 2019, the Taliban claimed that the Trump administration had agreed to pull half of the American forces in Afghanistan out of the country by May 1. However, the U.S. government denied that such a timeline had been agreed to, and Pentagon officials said they had no orders to withdraw troops.

In mid-February 2019, U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, said that Army General Scott Miller, who took over the Afghanistan war effort in September 2018, has been looking to reduce U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan in an effort to be “as efficient and as effective as [the U.S.] can be on the ground.” Votel indicated that Miller’s efficiency drive would likely lead to removal of over 1,000 troops from Afghanistan.

In early January 2019, The Intercept noted that the Afghan government has been “fighting an increasingly powerful Taliban insurgency that controls more territory than ever before” with depleted security forces which suffered “a record number of casualties during [2018’s] fighting season,” with few new recruits to replace its 2018 casualties. In interviews with Afghans across the country, the Intercept found “a range of responses, from trepidation to cautious optimism” in response to reports of the U.S. plan to draw down its troop levels in the country.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / guvendemir)

AKA

Ensuring a Secure Afghanistan Act

Official Title

To provide oversight over talks between the United States and the Taliban, limit the use of funds to reduce the total number of members of the Armed Forces serving on active duty who are deployed to Afghanistan until certain conditions on the ground are fulfilled, and for other purposes.

    This is an incredibly complex issue, and there’s no simple or short way through it. The country was in chaos before we got there and it’s still in chaos. It’s a dangerous situation for both the United States and Afghanistan. In a sense, we have a responsibility to the Afghan people, particularly after how things went in the ‘80s. We used the people to fight the Soviets and then we abandoned them to chaos and destruction. I’ve been to remote villages in Afghanistan while working with an NGO and the people live in fear of them. In one case, we weren’t allowed to spend time in a village because of the fear of the Taliban. I spent time in an orphanage. I spent time traversing the rough terrain and nearly impossible roads. Afghanistan used to be a modern and progressive country before being taken over by religious zealots, and there are still remnants of that more contemporary culture, even in some of the outer cities, like soccer stadiums that eventually got repurposed by the Taliban for public executions. I think that our approach in pushing a specific system of government on them was a mistake; we need to let them find their own way and then support the leadership. We need to commit to helping them become more independent. Simply dropping them because it’s not convenient or because it doesn’t immediately serve the interests of the United States is a mistake. We need more people on the ground, but not only soldiers. We need engineers and construction crews and communications specialists to help them rebuild the broken down infrastructure, such as the roads and communications. We need to put people there to plant trees, install solar and other alternative power sources. I was there in the middle of winter when there was no fuel for heat, such as wood, and no running water because of frozen and burst water lines. Some people there want their village life, but others want modernization, including libraries and schools. There needs to be a real evaluation of what the population wants and endeavor to assist them in achieving it. Food and shelter and warmth and access to roads and communications. Not just guns in the hands of soldiers. Some muscle is important when facing bullies and terrorists, but without investing in the people, it’s moot. It was largely like the Middle Ages/Dark Ages when I was there, except that there were some cars and some people had mobile phones, and just as Europeans made it through into the Renaissance era, so, too, can the people of Afghanistan. We can choose to be a part of that, to do good in the world, or we can abandon them.
    Like (38)
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    There are kids deployed in Afghanistan NOW that hadn’t been born when we started this charade of war on the wrong target. WE HAVE ALREADY LOST. Stop throwing away our money on all these stupid endless wars. Als I fundamentally reject the premise of this bill. The “conditions” are literally written to be all but impossible to fulfill. This bill exists to force us to stay at war FOREVER. END FOREVER WARS!
    Like (44)
    Follow
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    I am a little unsure on this. I believe that our government failed Afghanistan initially by pulling almost all support after we trained and armed warlords in order to get the Russians to withdraw. Instead of recognizing the need for culture influencing education, minimal infrastructure and humanitarian aid we essentially just left a trained, well armed, angry and vulnerable population behind. We got the Russians out and never were willing to address possible future consequences. We have paid the price for choosing expediency over strategically identifying and addressing possible unintended consequences of our actions. So, if it is possible to positively influence the Afghan culture by educating, empowering and aiding the populace- I would support keeping a minimal military presence to protect so doing. The problem I have is that It may be too late. I do think that actions to prevent terrorist groups from flourishing in a Taliban dominated society is a responsible thing to do. I kind of lean that way, I guess. I am really torn on this issue. Hopefully our legislature can do its job and truly deliberate to arrive at the best course of action.
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    “America Has Been at War 93% of the Time – 222 out of 239 Years – Since 1776 “- Global Research. War, including our invasion of Afghanistan, is an outmoded way of trying to resolve human problems. We should get out of all countries we have invaded. Save lives and give Peace a chance.
    Like (28)
    Follow
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    This war in Afghanistan has been a disaster and has cost the lives of many troops and trillions of dollars! We can’t be responsible for this country anymore! Pull all the troops out and let Afghanistan solve its own problems! Afghanistan is not a client state of the U.S.!
    Like (27)
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    Let’s end this nearly 20-year war.
    Like (16)
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    10K troops is a lot, for no real defensive purpose. I think we should identify what we need for counter-terrorism efforts and allow the Afghan government to make a go of it on their own. I'm tired of war with no purpose and no ending, and we can't afford the kind of military spending we have been doing.
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    This is a bizarre proposal. We need a sane government to deal with this and other serious issues. Oust trump and trump’s corrupt criminal regime. Now. We need to replace the GOP crooks and cronies with some decent people and get a SANE, SENSIBLE government!
    Like (14)
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    While I don’t know if 10,000 is the magic number, we need to finish what we started in Afghanistan. We have to treat it as a nation building project and not just a military operation.
    Like (12)
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    We need to just get out. We have fallen into the same quagmire that the USSR did, and we are handling it no better.
    Like (11)
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    We’ve been there far too long! Time to get out, cut our losses & move on to our multitude of problems at home
    Like (9)
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    Moot point since Republicans have stood by wringing their clammy little hands, while Trump has destroyed both our national security and our foreign affairs. Where is Mattis? .. yea my point exactly. Don’t forget Republicans wall of support for Trump.
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    End all foreign occupation NOW.
    Like (7)
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    We never should’ve went into Afghanistan in the first place. Bring our troops home and stop the endless wars
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    We’re always pulling out too soon and just having to send more back over later. Don’t half-ass it. Stay in there and finish the job!
    Like (7)
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    👍🏻House Bill H.R. 2060 AKA the Ensuring a Secure Afghanistan 🇦🇫 Act👍🏻 Just think back and remember the massive pullout of troops in Iran 🇮🇷 I support and recommend the passage of House Bill H.R. 2060 AKA the “Ensuring a Secure Afghanistan Act”which would give Congress oversight over talks between the U.S. and the Taliban in Afghanistan to ensure that an American troop withdrawal would only occur after the fulfillment of certain conditions. It’d prevent funds provided to the Dept. of Defense (DOD) for FY 2019 from being used to reduce U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan below 10,000 active duty members until the Director of National Intelligence certifies the Taliban have met several criteria that are described below. The Taliban in Afghanistan is stronger than ever, and the Afghan security forces’ ranks are thinned after heavy losses in 2018. Now, more than ever, the Afghan government needs U.S. support, so a future troop drawdown should be carefully planned to avoid a withdrawal that creates a vacuum that benefits the Taliban. SneakyPete..... 👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻. 7.26.19.....
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    We’ve been there too long, as a veteran I understand why but we can’t police the world, same with Iraq. We must put limits on what we are doing, the homeland is suffering; infrastructure for one. Other nations must do more. #MAGA
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    I am so sick of this unending war! It is time to bring our men home and let Afghanistan handle their own country. USA can’t be the police department of the world any longer. We have issues here at home that need to be addressed.
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    No. Be done and come home.
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    The talks with the Taliban seem to be going well, but we must maintain a strong presence until we are sure Afghanistan cannot become a terrorist proxy state again.
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