The main GOP senator is pushing for Biden to leave 1,000 soldiers behind as a safety net in Afghanistan
A key Republican senator wants President Joe Biden to maintain a military power of approximately 1,000 soldiers in Afghanistan through early 2022 in order to minimize the “chaotic transition” that is expected when US forces withdraw completely from the country.
“It would maintain a rapid counter-terrorism force as the political and security environment evolves; enable more effective education, surveillance and reconnaissance; Help protect the US embassy … and give Afghans who have supported US troops and now fear for their lives more time to process visas, ”wrote Senator Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. and senior member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
The proposal comes just days after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin testified to Inhof’s committee, expressing confidence in the withdrawal plans and the ability of the American armed forces to continue to provide logistical and counter-terrorism support after the withdrawal.
“I just want to say that the president made it clear that our mission in Afghanistan has been accomplished,” said Austin. “Go forward, [our] Counter-terrorism efforts will focus on elements that may launch attacks on our home country. In terms of our efforts to build skills beyond the horizon … we are now doing many things that are on the horizon. “
In May, Biden announced plans to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan by September 11 and end the United States’ ground presence there after nearly 20 years.
Last week, US Central Command officials said the job was about 50 percent done, although officials have not released concrete figures on how many troops are staying in the country. Around 2,500 US soldiers were stationed in Afghanistan this spring.
Inhofe, who has publicly criticized the withdrawal plan, said in the editorial that “no one wants to see US troops in Afghanistan forever”. However, he said withdrawing too quickly could endanger allies and US security interests in the region.
“This small contingent would retain air transport capacity for a limited period of time in the event that Kabul International Airport is overrun,” Inhofe wrote. “The USA would be able to realistically assess the development of the security situation. It will help us understand whether the Taliban intend to honor their commitments. “
Austin said a contingent of US military forces will remain in Afghanistan to secure US diplomatic facilities there, although officials have not publicly disclosed the size of the force.
US planners are also providing funds to Afghan government officials to assist the security forces, and Austin promised a close relationship between the two countries even if the military presence there goes away.
In an interview with the Military Times last week, CENTCOM Commander Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. said he believes US forces will be able to “keep pressure on” insurgent groups in the area even after the withdrawal. But any kinetic action will be limited to threats against the US homeland, he said.
“If these units pose actionable threats against the United States, we would be ready to step in there and take action if our Afghan partners are unable to do so,” he said. “And that will be the limit of our kinetic actions in Afghanistan.”
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs, and the White House for Military Times. He has been reporting on Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veteran politics. His work has received numerous awards, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.