AVA- In his last appearance before the House Armed Services Committee, Votel said any decision to reduce forces in Afghanistan should be made in full consultation with America’s coalition partners and the Afghan government and should “pivot off” political reconciliation and progress in the peace talks with the Taliban being conducted by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
“The political conditions and where we are in the reconciliation right now don't merit that,” Votel said under questioning.
Votel admitted in congressional testimony last month that though he's the top commander in charge of the fight against ISIS, President Trump never consulted him before announcing plans to pull all U.S. troops out of Syria.
In making that decision, Trump did not consult any of America’s partners and was forced by the blowback from NATO allies and bipartisan opposition in Congress to reverse course and allow some troops to remain behind.
Votel did not say whether Trump has requested his military advice about reducing the U.S. troop contribution to the NATO-led mission to support the Afghan military in its fight against the Taliban but noted he has received no orders to withdraw any U.S. troops.
Asked if absent a firm peace agreement the Afghan military could stand on its own, Votel said it was his assessment that Afghan forces remains dependent on support from the NATO-led coalition.
In his prepared remarks, Votel insisted the current strategy of supporting the Afghan military with advice and airpower was working and providing Khalilzad “the maximum military pressure and leverage to support his diplomatic efforts.”
Friday 8 March 2019 00:39