In its semiannual Afghanistan security and stability report released Tuesday, the Trump administration said that while challenges remain, "the combination of military escalation and diplomatic initiative have made a favorable political settlement more likely than at any time in recent memory."
The report comes amidst media reports that President Trump has ordered the Defense Department to prepare to draw down U.S. troop levels in the country from about 14,000 to 7,000.
While "[t]he introduction of additional advisors and enablers in 2018 stabilized the situation in Afghanistan, slowing the momentum of a Taliban march that had capitalized on U.S. drawdowns between 2011 and 2016 . . . [t]he key to success remains sustained military pressure against the Taliban," the report states.
"The current military situation inside of Afghanistan remains at an impasse," the document continues. "The introduction of additional advisors and enablers in 2018 stabilized the situation, slowing the momentum of a Taliban march that had capitalized on U.S. drawdowns between 2011 and 2016. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) remain in control of most of Afghanistan’s population centers and all of the provincial capitals, while the Taliban control large portions of Afghanistan’s rural areas, and continue to attack poorly defended government checkpoints and rural districts."
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), who traveled to Afghanistan in October when he joined House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to observe the situation on the ground firsthand, said in a statement issued today he is "deeply disturbed by reports that the administration is planning to cut the number of American troops in Afghanistan by half.
"Among my concerns are that such a move would: complicate the remaining troops' ability to protect themselves; cause coalition partners to reduce their presence as well; set back progress in helping the Afghan security forces be able to provide for their country's security; relieve pressure on the Taliban at a critical juncture in peace negotiations; and allow ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan to rebuild and eventually launch terrorist attacks against Americans," Thornberry said.
"Considerable progress has been made in the last two years against terrorist organizations in a variety of places around the world," he added. "Reducing the American presence in Afghanistan and removing our presence in Syria will reverse that progress, encourage our adversaries, and make America less safe."