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Trump Draws Down Troops in Afghanistan, Defying Congress and Common Sense

To those convinced that Donald Trump was fixated on reversing his election defeat, the president himself revealed otherwise. His determination to upend American democracy in no way distracted him from his obsession with surrendering [1] Afghanistan [2] to the Taliban.

In defiance of the recently enacted National Defense Authorization Act, Trump drew down American troops to 2,500 (Washington Post [3]).

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers opposed the drawdown to 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, and forbid the Pentagon from using money in this year’s or last year’s budget to carry out the reduction. Congress included a provision on the matter in the National Defense Authorization Act [4] passed earlier this month.

The provision stated that the Trump administration could only access the funds by either submitting an assessment of what effect the reduction in forces would have on the ongoing counterterrorism mission, or by submitting a waiver with a written explanation that the move is important to U.S. national security interests.

The Pentagon statement Friday did not mention an assessment or waiver that would allow the reduction to be carried out despite the congressional prohibition. But a Pentagon spokesman said President Trump decided to issue a waiver.

Trump’s damn-the-consequences troop reduction even ran afoul of his own surrender plan (same source).

Some lawmakers said it was unclear if 2,500 troops would be enough to carry out effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. Others said the troop cuts could violate the deal with the Taliban, which stated U.S. troop reductions would be conditions-based.

The central condition of the deal was a call for the Taliban to break ties with international terrorist groups including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Afghan and United Nations officials have reported that the Taliban maintain ties to al-Qaeda [5]. The special U.S. envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the Taliban still has “work to do before they satisfy their commitments.”

Not that this should surprise anyone. Trump has repeatedly made it clear that he doesn’t mind the Taliban breaking its promises [6] or taking bounties to kill American soldiers [7]. He was even prepared to bring Taliban leaders to Camp David [8].

Thankfully, Donald Trump will be out of office by Wednesday afternoon. One Afghan Vice President is already looking forward to that (Washington Post [9]).

In a statement Monday, Afghanistan’s second vice president, Sarwar Danish, called for the incoming Biden administration to conduct a “full review” of the peace process and “apply more pressure on the Taliban to reduce their violence.”

For all his tough-guy rhetoric, Donald Trump’s actions as president revealed him to be a full-on appeaser of the Taliban. Never mind that they sheltered and allied with the terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans on 11 September 2001. Never mind that they still shelter and ally with the terrorists who killed 3,000 Americans on 11 September 2001.

It remains to be seen if Joe Biden will be able to reverse the damage done, but at least he’ll get to try.