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US Congress moves to block troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and Germany

US lawmakers are throwing up legislative roadblocks to prevent the outgoing US administration from reducing troop levels in Afghanistan and Germany before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on 20 January 2021.

House and Senate conferees have hashed out the mutual terms for the proposed fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, and are set to vote on and approve the measure in before sending it to President Donald Trump’s desk. Included are two provisions designed to hamstring the Pentagon from following through with troop reductions abroad.

When it comes to Afghanistan, in November Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced plans to slash US troop levels from about 4,500 down to 2,500 by mid-January 2021. The bill, however, prevents the department from reducing troop levels below 4,000 – or the total number left when the legislation is enacted – until the Pentagon, State Department, and the director of national intelligence detail how a drawdown affects threats to the United States, the counterterrorism mission against the Islamic State, and more.

“The conferees note the South Asia strategy emphasizes the importance of a conditions-based United States presence in Afghanistan in support of ongoing diplomatic efforts to secure a peaceful, negotiated solution to the conflict,” lawmakers wrote. “The conferees further note that any decision to reduce the armed forces of the United States in Afghanistan should be done in an orderly manner and in coordination with United States allies and partners and the government of Afghanistan.”

Afghan security forces inspect the scene of a car bomb explosion in Kabul on 27 October that resulted in at least three people being killed and 13 others wounded. US lawmakers have included provisions in the final version of the fiscal year 2021 defense autorisation bill to prevent troop reductions in Afghanistan and Germany. (Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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