Senate Democrat: Biden made 'the best of many poor choices' in Afghanistan

Senate Democrat: Biden made 'the best of many poor choices' in Afghanistan
© Greg Nash

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman 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.) said on Sunday that President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Did President Biden institute a vaccine mandate for only half the nation's teachers? Democrats lean into vaccine mandates ahead of midterms MORE made "the best of many poor choices" regarding U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, arguing that the withdrawal of troops "is not closure, this is a transition.”

On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” host Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David ToddIf .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden GOP governor: Biden's vaccine mandate 'increases the division' Manchin says he can't support Biden's .5 trillion spending plan MORE showed Reed a headline from the current issue of The Economist, which read “America's war in Afghanistan is ending in crushing defeat.” 

“It's a pretty rough headline. Do you agree with it?” Todd asked the senator.

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“It's not accurate. The purpose that we went into Afghanistan for was to degrade and disrupt al Qaeda, to limit their ability to project attacks outside of Afghanistan. To a great degree, we've done that. The job's not over,” Reed said. “This is not a closure. This is a transition, we have to maintain continual involvement both with the Afghan government by supporting them financially. Also providing the kind of technical assistance they need for their air force and other elements.”

Reed said that the president “made a difficult, but the best of many poor choices,” given the current circumstances.

“I think the president was presented with a bad series of choices. The Trump administration had said we were leaving by May 1. The Taliban had no real responsibilities in that agreement, none that they carried out that I can see,” Reed said.

“And yet that date, I think, would have prompted an incredible increase in violence and directed against the United States, so I think the president made a difficult, but the best of many poor choices,” he added. 

Todd also asked Reed if a promise he had made in 2002 that the U.S. was going to remain involved in Afghanistan for an extended period was “an empty promise.”

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“I believe it may have been your first trip to Afghanistan in 2002. You said you reassured the leadership at the time of Afghanistan that America was going to be involved for the long haul. There was this ... constant fear among ... Afghan reformists that whatever we did, we were going to leave,” Todd said.

“Well, isn't that what's happening? Aren't their greatest fears being realized? Didn't you, basically - is that an empty promise that was made, we've now turned tail?” Todd asked.

Reed refuted the claim, saying that “one of the critical strategic mistakes was the pivot to Iraq,” which changed their involvement in Afghanistan. 

“No, I think some of the factors that we have to consider is that in 2002 we were prepared, and we had a permissive situation. We had destroyed the Taliban. One of the critical strategic mistakes was the pivot to Iraq, which I opposed,” Reed said. “And one reason I opposed it is I thought it would eventually lead to compromising our resources and our attention to Afghanistan, and it did.”

“We've tried to resuscitate that approach to Afghanistan over several surges, they have not been successful and 20 years of effort and thousands of American lives I don't think represents a shallow promise in 2002,” he added.