Washington: A dispute over President Donald Trump’s ability to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan without congressional consent is delaying the passage of a massive defense bill.
Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, is objecting to a provision of the legislation that would raise hurdles for the president’s ability to draw down troops in the central Asian country without the approval of Congress.
The provision added by GOP Representative Liz Cheney and Democratic Representative Jason Crow, an Afghanistan veteran, calls for the administration to submit inter-agency reports and certifications before reducing U.S. forces below the 8,000 level and again at 4,000.
Paul’s opposition is slowing approval of the $740.5 billion National Defense Authorization Act.
The libertarian-leaning senator said he thought Democrats were backing the provision out of “partisan anger” because they didn’t want Trump to have full discretion on taking troops out of Afghanistan. He argued that they were “going against their own alleged principles to get their desired results.”
“It is partisan anger,” Paul said. “People don’t like President Trump. But this will bind all future presidents.”
Trump last month ordered the Pentagon to accelerate a drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 in each nation, as he works to deliver on his longstanding pledge to exit from “endless wars” before he leaves office in January.
Trump’s moves to reduce the presence of U.S. troops overseas in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Germany has met with bipartisan pushback as members of Congress argued that their deployment is needed to deter adversaries ranging from organized terrorist groups to the Russian government.
According to the provision, the secretary of Defense may waive the reporting requirement if he or she deems doing so vital to U.S. national security interests or necessary because of an imminent and extraordinary threat to military service personnel.
Senator John Thune, the No. 2 GOP leader in the chamber, said votes on the legislation could happen as soon as Thursday night or Friday if an agreement is reached with Paul.
“If there’s cooperation we could, you know, finish those tonight, but at the moment it looks like we’ll be here tomorrow,” Thune said. -Bloomberg