Experts caution House committee against Trump’s troop drawdowns


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing Friday over President Donald Trump’s recent order to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the bipartisan backlash that followed.

The president ordered the Pentagon to reduce the number of troops in both countries to 2,500 by Jan. 15, right before he leaves office.

“I went to war after 9/11 three times, twice in Afghanistan,” said Rep. Jason Crow, D-CO.

Crow told he committee he has fought the Taliban and supports an eventual drawdown of U.S. troops.

“But there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it,” Crow said.

During the announcement this week, Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said the new order “does not equate to a change in U.S. policy or objectives.” But Crow argued Congress deserves more transparency from the Trump administration and time to consult our NATO partners.

The former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, agreed.

“They need to hear from us that we will stay the course,” Crocker said during the hearing.

President Trump’s order would roughly cut in half the current number of troops in Afghanistan under the terms of a February peace agreement with the Taliban.

“What’s the right number?,” asked Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-AL.

Byrne questioned Dr. Seth Jones with the Center for Strategic and International Studies about how successful the U.S. would be in mounting a successful counterterrorism effort after cutting the U.S. presence from nearly 5,000 troops to 2,500.

“That’s the $64 billion question maybe,” Jones said. “I’m tired of nation building. We’re well beyond that.”

Jones said military leaders need to answer if the drawdown would also be enough to prevent a Taliban overthrow of the Afghan government.

“It’s more than just killing or capturing Al-Qaeda leaders,” Jones said.

While many concerns remain, some hope the order is delayed until after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

“To tell the Taliban that until you live up to your side of the deal, we’re not going anywhere,” Crocker said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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