- President Donald Trump's plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan is meeting resistance from Republican lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
- "The consequences of a premature American exit would likely be even worse than President Obama's withdrawal from Iraq back in 2011, which fueled the rise of ISIS and a new round of global terrorism," McConnell said.
- McConnell likened an Afghanistan withdrawal to the US's retreat from Vietnam.
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President Donald Trump's plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan is meeting resistance from Republican lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who likened it to the US's retreat from Vietnam in 1975.
Speaking on the Senate floor Monday afternoon, McConnell, who also opposed a withdrawal from Syria, stressed that the US must provide a "limited but important role in defending American national security … against terrorists who would like nothing more than for the most powerful force for good in the world to simply pick up our ball and go home."
"A rapid withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan now would hurt our allies and delight the people who wish us harm," McConnell said, adding that it would as "humiliating" as it was for US troops to withdraw from Saigon in the 1970s.
"The consequences of a premature American exit would likely be even worse than President Obama's withdrawal from Iraq back in 2011, which fueled the rise of ISIS and a new round of global terrorism," McConnell added. Others, however, directly link ISIS's rise to the Syrian Civil War.
Trump had campaigned on withdrawing US troops from combat operations overseas, tweeting that US forces in Afghanistan would be "home by Christmas!"
On Friday, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller issued a memo for Defense Department employees stating, "it's time to come home," from the war against Al Qaeda. Miller left some room for interpretation, adding that the US must "remain committed to finishing the war" and "avoid our past strategic error of failing to see the fight through to the finish."
McConnell's comments come as military officials ready themselves for an official directive from Trump as soon as this week, according to news reports. Officials said they are preparing for a "warning order" to reduce their troop levels to 2,500 service members each in Iraq and Afghanistan, from the roughly 4,500 and 3,000 troops, respectively, CNN reported Monday.
McConnell's sentiment towards the potential drawdown has received similar concerns from House Republicans.
"For the sake of the Afghan people, it is essential that the ongoing peace process be given the best chance for success," Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. "A premature US withdrawal would not only jeopardize the Afghan government's ability to negotiate, but would endanger US counterterrorism interest."
The US's ongoing agreement with the Afghan government and the Taliban is contingent on a number of factors, including an overall reduction of violence. But following the ceasefire in February, violence in the country has dramatically spiked, prompting US officials to deliver a stark warning.
"I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever," Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted in October.
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