President Biden announced on April 14 that the United States will withdraw all remaining forces from Afghanistan before Sept. 11, 2021. Given the persistent terrorist threats there and in neighboring Pakistan, the degradation of U.S. counterterrorism capability associated with the withdrawal, and the likelihood that the country once again could generate threats to the U.S. homeland, there are serious questions about the Biden administration’s decision.
It appears administration briefings to key committee members in the House and Senate last week did not go well, raising more questions than the briefings answered. If Biden proceeds to withdraw from Afghanistan based on a timeline rather than conditions on the ground, the administration will have another chance to attempt to answer questions — this time in writing.
That’s because the withdrawal will trigger a statutory requirement from Section 1215 of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and require the administration to submit a detailed report to Congress regarding the effects of withdrawal on key U.S. interests. Under the law, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is required to submit the report when the total number of forces in Afghanistan drops below 2,000 troops.
Brad Bowman is senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). He was a national security advisor to two members of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees and served as a U.S. Army officer in Afghanistan. Follow him on Twitter @Brad_L_Bowman. Maseh Zarif is director of congressional relations at FDD Action. He previously served as a professional staff member on the House Homeland Security Committee. Follow him on Twitter @masehz. FDD is a nonpartisan think tank focused on foreign policy and national security issues.