Merkley demands congressional vote on Afghan postwar force

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyPresident Trump, listen to candidate Trump and keep Volcker Rule Senators push federal prisons to expand compassionate release Senate confirms Trump's new FBI director MORE (D-Ore.) is demanding President Obama seek congressional approval for any postwar U.S. force in Afghanistan after the White House-mandated 2014 withdrawal deadline. 

"Should the President determine the necessity to maintain [American] troops in Afghanistan" after 2014, "any such presence and missions should be authorized by a separate vote of Congress," according legislation proposed by Merkley on Wednesday. 

ADVERTISEMENT
The language is part of an amendment filed by the Oregon Democrat to the fiscal year 2014 defense spending bill. 

Fellow Oregon Democrat Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenTrump's Democratic tax dilemma Senate Dems push Trump admin to protect nursing home residents' right to sue Overnight Finance: Trump-Russia probe reportedly expands to possible financial crimes | Cruel September looms for GOP | Senate clears financial nominees | Mulvaney reverses on debt ceiling MORE, along with Sens. Rand PaulRand PaulCurtis wins GOP primary for House seat vacated by Jason Chaffetz Glimmer of hope in bipartisan criminal justice reform effort Trump barrage stuns McConnell and his allies MORE (R-Ky.), Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOPINION | 5 ways Democrats can win back power in the states Trump's Democratic tax dilemma Manchin eyed as potential pick for Energy secretary: report MORE (D-W.Va.), Tom HarkinTom HarkinDistance education: Tumultuous today and yesterday Grassley challenger no stranger to defying odds Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream MORE (D-Iowa) and Mike LeeMike LeeTrouble draining the swamp? Try returning power to the states Congress must act to protect data privacy before courts make surveillance even easier Five tough decisions for the GOP on healthcare MORE (R-Utah) are all co-sponsors of the Merkley amendment. 

Merkley's amendment, however, will not affect potential advise and assist operations conducted with the Afghan military by that U.S. postwar force, according to the legislation. 

The amendment will also not impede White House or Pentagon authority to carry out counterterrorism operations against Taliban, al Qaeda and other militant extremist groups fighting in the country. 

Timing of the amendment comes as Washington and Kabul continue to wrangle over the final language of a postwar deal. 

On Tuesday, Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryCongress needs to assert the war power against a dangerous president Sinclair and 'Big Media': The outrage that caused the outrage Tillerson sets a lost State Department on the right course MORE admitted "mistakes" were made in postwar talks between Washington and Kabul, vowing to grant Afghan leaders more leeway in the final agreement. 

That change is only the latest effort by American negotiators to keep U.S-Afghan postwar negotiations from falling apart, less than a year before all American combat troops are scheduled to withdraw from the country. 

On Monday, a defense official told The Hill that a key meeting of top Afghan leaders on the Obama administration's postwar strategy for the country is still on track, despite a recent terrorist attack in the country's capitol of Kabul. 

The location of the attack is where members of the Loya Jirga, an assembly of the country's most powerful tribal leaders, are scheduled to meet later this week to review the U.S. postwar plan. 

That meeting to review the American strategy, known as a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), remains on schedule despite the attack, according to the defense official.

Recent news reports earlier in the week stated a White House apology would be a part of a U.S-Afghan postwar deal to allow American forces to remain in the country after 2014. 

National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Wednesday flatly denied reports that President Obama is drafting an apology for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, as a way to lock in a postwar deal in the country. 

"No such letter has been drafted or delivered. There is not a need for the United States to apologize to Afghanistan," Rice said during an interview with CNN.

"We have sacrificed and supported [Afghanistan] in their democratic progress and in tackling the insurgents and al Qaeda. So that [apology] is not on the table."