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GOP lawmaker: Afghan president wants US to reconsider drawdown

Rep. Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Lobbying world Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto MORE (R-Texas) on Thursday said Afghanistan’s president recently told lawmakers that he wants the number of U.S. troops in the country left “flat” through 2015.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani made the request while meeting with members of a bipartisan congressional delegation at the Munich Security Conference in Germany earlier this month, according to Thornberry, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

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“His request with us is leave it flat for the rest of the year,” Thornberry said during a roundtable discussion with reporters. “He said that will give us the best chance of being able to further develop and be able to defend ourselves.”

New Defense Secretary Ashton Carter made a surprise visit to Afghanistan last weekend and indicated that the White House is strongly considering slowing down its troops withdrawal timetable

“Our priority now is to make sure this progress sticks,” Carter said at a press conference with Ghani. “We are discussing and rethinking the details of the counter-terrorism mission and how the environment has changed here with respect to terrorism, since we first laid out our plans.”

While the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan technically ended at the end of last year, there are still over 10,000 U.S. troops in the country.

President Obama’s long-stated plan was to roughly halve that number by the end of the year, before almost all U.S. troops return home by the end of 2016.

Congressional Republicans have been highly critical of the drawdown, arguing it should be based on the security situation on the ground, not an arbitrary timeline.

Thornberry noted that a group of Armed Services members recently visited the country and that they came away believing the previous schedule should be chucked.

“I think they’re persuaded that’s a good idea. I certainly am,” he said.