indica News Bureau –
Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna has supported President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out troops from war-ravaged Afghanistan – a latest in series of abrupt changes to US military policy.
“I support a responsible withdrawal of American military forces in Afghanistan. If we hope to end the security challenge posed by terrorism, the answer is not an indefinite deployment of U.S. troops in the region,” Khanna, who was recently re-elected from the 17th Congressional District of California said in a statement.
Khanna, who has been a bitter critic of Trump all along, is the only Democratic lawmaker to support him on his reported move on Afghanistan.
At the moment, 14,000 American troops are serving in war-torn Afghanistan and Trump intends to withdraw up to half of them, thus inviting widespread criticism from Republicans, Democrats and policy analysts.
In addition to this, the year 2018 seems to be ending on a chaotic note for the Trump administration with the withdrawal of American troops from Syria and the high-profile exit of Defence Secretary James Mattis.
Mattis had argued for maintaining a strong US military presence in Afghanistan to strengthen peace efforts.
According to reports, the unexpected move comes as a shock and disappointment to foreign diplomats and Afghan officials in Kabul who are intensifying efforts to end the 17-year conflict with the Taliban.
Even before Trump’s surprise announcement, Khanna had planned to introduce a bill to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan.
“I believe we need to pull our troops out of Afghanistan,” Khanna had told The Intercept in an interview.
“Taliban controls 70 percent. When the surge happened, Taliban controlled 40 percent. We aren’t making any progress there,” Khanna who is also a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said.
The US spends over $43 billion currently on Afghanistan each year.
According to a Pentagon assessment of the 17-year-old conflict, recent gains by US and Afghan forces under Trump’s South Asia strategy could be in trouble if Washington cuts the number of American troops in Afghanistan.
In a report submitted to the Congress, Defence Department analysts wrote that Trump’s decision last year to send an additional 3,000 US troops into Afghanistan as part of his South Asia strategy “stabilized the situation in Afghanistan, slowing the momentum of a Taliban march that had capitalized on U.S. drawdowns between 2011 and 2016”.
The analysts added that any let up in pressure against the Taliban could derail efforts to secure peace talks with the insurgent group.
Khanna said that there is a need to employ regional actors to solve the Afghan puzzle.
“Instead, we must have a robust, multilateral, and inclusive diplomatic initiative to encourage national reconciliation, local peace building efforts, and the engagement of regional actors such as Pakistan, Iran, Russia, China, and India. The State Department needs a strategy to secure an inclusive and lasting peace settlement, a plan for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, and sustained support for non-military peace building solutions to secure any political settlement reached by the Afghan people,” Khanna, who is among the ‘Samosa Caucus’ of Indian American Representatives, said.
The Taliban has long been refusing to hold talks with the Kabul administration on the plea that it has no powers to make decisions.
“The US is the real party to the war and the Kabul regime is part of the American side and has no separate status. The power center is the US embassy and command of the foreign forces and not the presidential palace and that is why the Islamic Emirate held talks with the US and asked them to quit Afghanistan,” a Taliban commentary had said.
The Taliban, which sheltered 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, was put down by the US after 2001. Since then, the militants have been trying to unseat the US-backed government in Kabul.
The decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan has not been officially announced yet.
“In sum, Trump’s instincts to withdraw are correct. But the tactical implementation matters. He needs to surround himself with people like George Shultz, Bill Perry, Larry Korb, or Ben Rhodes who can help him carry it out,” Khanna said.
Khanna recently received the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s annual Edward F Snyder Award for National Legislative Leadership in Advancing Disarmament and Building Peace.
He was recognized for his work to prevent war with North Korea, his strong call to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and his work to strengthen US diplomacy abroad.