By Leo Shane III, Military Times
Congress is poised to divvy up billions of dollars previously planned to support Afghan security forces to other military priorities in the wake of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, but some advocates are pushing to keep that cash flowing overseas to maintain anti-terrorism work.
Officials from the Global Special Operations Forces Foundation, a Tampa-based organization advocating for special operations forces around the world, on Friday sent a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee asking that nearly $3 billion in money planned for the now-defunct Afghan military to be redirected instead to intelligence assets and operations in the region.
“[They] will now be even more necessary to battle an emboldened global terrorist threat,” the group wrote in its letter.
“The bottom line is that more over-the-horizon operations will require resources currently not allocated.” U.S. Special Operations Command, based at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force base, and the intelligence community “do not have sufficient funding to meet these new challenges. We must ensure that threat organizations that wish us harm cannot reconstitute, and we must preclude them from proliferating terrorism,” the letter said.
The nonprofit Global Special Operations Forces Foundation, or Global SOF, has its headquarters near MacDill and SOCOM, the command responsible for coordinating the global war on terror and providing fully trained and equipped military commandos. The foundation’s leadership and staff includes retired special operators, analysts and defense contractors.
The push by Global SOF comes less than a week before the House Armed Services Committee is expected to debate the Afghan military funding in their annual defense authorization bill mark-up.
Senate Armed Services Committee members approved their draft of the defense budget policy measure earlier this summer, with about $3.3 billion for Afghan military and security forces included.
However, that was before the fall of the democratic government in Afghanistan earlier this month and the effective dissolution of the Afghan military.
In a draft of the House Armed Services Committee’s initial budget language obtained ahead of next week’s official release, Democratic committee leaders are proposing retaining only about $350 million of that money to complete outstanding contracts with defense firms, and re-assigning the other nearly $3 billion to other non-Afghanistan priorities.
Just how many committee members will go along with that plan remains to be seen.
Several lawmakers in recent days have called for investment in new military operations in the region to counter terrorist threats such as ISIS-K, the group that claimed responsibility for an attack at the Kabul airport on Thursday that killed 13 U.S. service members and, according to the Associated Press, at least 169 Afghan civilians.
Republicans in the House have also repeatedly attacked the planned $715 billion in defense spending outlined in the initial defense authorization plan, saying it falls short of military needs around the globe.
The Global SOF Foundation letter notes that since all U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan by Aug. 31, American intelligence agencies will require “significant air assets and will require very tight response timelines” to respond to terrorist threats in the region.
That will require more equipment, personnel and money, they noted.
The money issues surrounding the Afghan security forces are likely to come under more scrutiny in the weeks ahead, as Congress debates both the defense authorization bill and the president’s request for the fiscal 2022 Defense Department budget.
The House Armed Services Committee debate on the authorization bill is set to begin Wednesday morning and last late into the night. Staff said they expect a host of amendments related to Afghanistan oversight and military support to be offered during the session.