President Obama should base the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan on conditions on the ground rather than sticking to the current plan, says Sen. Jack ReedJack ReedTop Republican: General told senators he opposed Afghanistan withdrawal We have a plan that prioritizes Afghanistan's women — we're just not using it This week: Democrats kick off chaotic fall with Biden's agenda at stake MORE (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"You've got to look at conditions on the ground," Reed, who recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan, told a group of reporters in his office on Thursday.
The 9,800 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan are slated to drawdown to 5,500 by the end of this year.
President Obama has already once delayed the plan, which called for all but an embassy presence in Kabul by the end of this year.
Reed, without giving his own recommendations, said several things have changed on the battlefield to necessitate the second look.
First, he said, the Taliban did not take a winter hiatus this year, as its fighters normally do. Instead, they have decided to pressure the Afghan National Security Forces, recognizing it is their first year completely in the lead in the fight after the U.S. and NATO ended their combat missions in December 2014.
The continued pressure from the Taliban has prevented the Afghan forces from being able to reset its forces, he added.
"The fighting season is no longer interrupted by a winter hiatus. The Taliban has understood that if they cannot keep the pressure on, then these forces will get better and better and better with our help," he said.
Reed, a retired Army paratrooper, said a second change is the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Afghanistan, which he said was not predicted.
"What we have to do is listen first to the ground commander and see what he says," he said, in reference to U.S. Army Gen. John Campbell, who is leading the U.S. and coalition fight in Afghanistan.
"And I think that recommendation has to be given great weight. He is an extraordinarily competent soldier, he is on the ground, he is internalizing all these lessons, and we've learned a lot, the Afghans have learned a lot, the Taliban has learned a lot too