This was a vote on an amendment by Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Peter Welch (D-VT) that would have required the president to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The amendment would also have required the Secretary of Defense to submit to Congress a plan to withdraw U.S. troops within 60 days of the enactment of the underlying defense bill. This amendment was offered to legislation authorizing annual funding for Defense Department programs.
Chaffetz urged support for his amendment: “ Unfortunately, terrorism is not confined to the boundaries of just Afghanistan. We have to have the very best intelligence, both human and electronic. And when we have intelligence that shows that there is a clear and present danger to the United States of America, our special forces need to take out that threat. That requires deadly force. But that does not necessarily require a hundred thousand of our men and women serving in Afghanistan in what I believe has expanded into mission creep that is just allowing people to participate in nation building….We should be proud of the fact that bringing our troops home is not putting our tail between our legs. It is victory. It is success. And we will continue to fight the fight.”
Welch argued: “…The policy that we are now pursuing, nation building in Afghanistan, is no longer the policy that is either financially sustainable nor in our best national security interests….the threat of al Qaeda has diminished in Afghanistan; the threat of terrorism in the world has not. This is not a nation state-centered threat. It is dispersed and decentralized.”
Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) opposed the amendment: “We are training the Afghans to be able to take over their country, to make sure that they're going to be successful in maintaining order in that country; making sure that, as we have pushed terrorists out, those terrorists stay out. That is a long-term successful strategy--to secure, hold, build, and transition. Let's make sure that we allow that to happen. It's critical that we don't make an arbitrary transition to another strategy that we've seen in the past hasn't worked. And all of us want to make sure that we are getting our troops out of there. But we also want to make sure that those sacrifices are not in vain. And we can go back and forth about what the end result is, but the end result is that we want to make sure that we're successful there in the long term.”
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) also opposed the amendment: “If we pull out and think that we can run a counterterrorism mission with a government that is collapsing around us and that does not support us, then we kid ourselves. That's why it is so important…to make sure that we complete the mission and we have a government that can stand so that we can begin to responsibly draw down. I think it's important we draw down [the presence of American troops in Afghanistan], but we have to do so in a responsible way.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 123-294. Voting “yea” were 107 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 16 Republicans. 217 Republicans and 77 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have required the president to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.