US Lawmakers Assure President Ghani Against Wide Drawdown of Troops from Afghanistan

As plans to trim 1,000 or more American troops from Afghanistan are being discussed, several key U.S. lawmakers, met with President Ashaf Ghani on Saturday along the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, and assured against a wider drawdown like the one President Donald Trump has planned for Syria.

Lawmakers informed, according to Defense News, that they spoke to President Ghani spoke about the Afghan peace process, the U.S. troop presence and recent Russian involvement in the process.

The bipartisan group of US lawmakers included Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe, House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mac Thornberry, and both Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and ranking member Bob Menendez, D-N.J. There are roughly 50 U.S. lawmakers at Munich, the largest American delegation in the conference’s history.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Mike Pence separately met Ghani at Munich. This is just days after Trump addressed the Congress and called U.S. talks with the Taliban “constructive” and said, “the hour has come to at least try for peace.”

Addressing the conference on Saturday, Merkel questioned the wisdom of a rapid U.S. withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan, among other unilateral moves undertaken by the Trump administration. She cautioned that the NATO mission in Afghanistan is dependent upon U.
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S. participation. This is symmetrical with reaction of European allies of US in general to the proposal of sudden decisions taken by US president Trump.

In the closed-door meeting with lawmakers on Saturday, Ghani is said to have expressed confidence that Trump’s decision to withdraw will be based on conditions in Afghanistan.

“He presents a strong case for our participation in helping him with his mission,” Inhofe, R-Okla., said of Ghani. “He wants to maintain as heavy a [U.S. troop] presence as he can.”

Asked if he supported Trump’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, Inhofe said, “That’s [Trump’s] decision to make,” with the caveat: “Not withdrawing all our troops.”

Speaking on the sidelines at Munich, James Stavridis, who oversaw the Afghanistan fight as a former supreme allied commander at NATO, said the time is ripe for a solution in Afghanistan. The Taliban, Pakistan and Washington are ready to bring an end to the conflict, and “President Ghani understands that U.S. patience is wearing thin,” he said.

Stavridis argued that the U.S. must maintain its 14,000 troops and allies their 7,000 troops, to motivate the Taliban to stay part of peace talks as those talks evolve to include the Afghan government.

“This is not the time to be withdrawing a significant number of troops,” Stavridis said. “To the degree Congress has a role to play, they should be pressuring the administration to stay in the game.”

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