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Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed defended President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the decision was the “best of many poor choices.”
The Rhode Island Democrat insisted that while critics have slammed the pullout as a sign of defeat, the United States had actually achieved its goals to “a great degree” during almost two decades of a military presence in the Asian country.
“The purpose that we went into Afghanistan for was to degrade and disrupt al Qaeda, to limit their ability to project attacks outside Afghanistan, Reed said. “To a great degree, we’ve done that. The job’s not over. This is not a closure, this is a transition.”
Biden “made a difficult” decision, but one that was “the best of many poor choices,” Reed said, adding that the U.S. should “maintain continual involvement” by supporting the government in Kabul either financially or by “providing them the kind of technical assistance they need” militarily.
The Defense Department has announced that the withdrawal was 90% complete. Biden had set an August 31 deadline for a pullback, after the Trump administration had declared a May deadline for the withdrawal.
Reed backed Biden’s decision to delay the move, saying that adhering to the timeline from the Trump administration “would have prompted an incredible increase of violence.”
“I think it set a fixed date, rather than imposing conditions that would have then let us depart Afghanistan,” he said, adding that “most of the conditions on the Taliban were unenforceable. They claimed that they would disassociate themselves from al Qaeda, clearly that’s not the case.”
In explaining the withdrawal, Biden said that almost “20 years of experience has shown us — and the current security situation only confirms — that just one more year of fighting in Afghanistan is not a solution, but a recipe for being there indefinitely. It’s up to the Afghans to make the decision about the future of their country.”
But Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said that the withdrawal is “a crushing defeat,” for the U.S., according to NBC News.
The Illinois Republican said that “I’m proud of the American people for sticking by this mission for 20 years. We actually needed to do it longer,” lamenting that “the Taliban have outlasted the will of the United States.”