US news agencies reported on Friday that US lawmakers are moving to prevent the Trump administration from reducing troop levels in Afghanistan and Germany before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on 20 January 2021.
The reports said that the House and Senate conferees have hashed out the mutual terms for the proposed fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act and are set to vote on and approve the measure before sending it to President Donald Trump’s desk.
Citing the 2014 agreement, the Afghan security agencies said the government forces’ capacity needs to be increased in various areas, especially in military training.
“The presence of NATO in Afghanistan and their military assistance and training to Afghan forces over the last two decades has been effective in our joint fight against international terrorism,” said Rohullah Ahmadzai, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.
“The details of military cooperation between Afghanistan and the United States of America has been defined in the security pact,” said Rahmatullah Andar, spokesman for the National Security Council.
The bilateral security agreement was signed between Kabul and Washington in 2014.
US lawmakers have included two provisions designed to restrict the Pentagon from following through with troop reductions in Afghanistan and Germany, according to a report by Janes.com.
Back in November, US acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced plans to reduce US troop levels from about 4,500 down to 2,500 by mid-January 2021.
The bill, however, prevents the department from reducing troop levels below 4,000 – or the total number left when the legislation is enacted – until the Pentagon, State Department, and the director of national intelligence detail how a drawdown affects threats to the United States, the counterterrorism mission against the Islamic State, and more, according to report by Janes.com.
A survey by the Chicago Council in February shows that a majority of Americans say the US military presence in the Middle East should be maintained (45%) or increased (29%). Just 24 percent think it should be decreased.
The survey shows that a majority support long-term military bases in Iraq (55%, up from 41% in 2014) and Kuwait (57%, up from 47% in 2014). Nearly half favor keeping bases in Afghanistan (48%, up from 43% in 2014).
A combined majority (54%) say alliances in the Middle East benefit both Middle East partners and the United States or mostly benefit the United States, according to the survey.
This comes amid a breakthrough in the peace negotiations in Doha. The Taliban signed an agreement with the United States in February and committed to cut their ties with terrorist groups including al-Qaeda. The US in the agreement committed to leave Afghanistan by May 2021.
“An early withdrawal of US forces will prolong war and insecurity. We should wait for the results of the peace negotiations,” said Atiq Ramin, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Wolesi Jirga, the Afghan parliament.