Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed said Sunday that President Joe Biden made the “best choice” in his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan on his timetable, given that he was “presented with a bad series of choices.”
“I think the president made a difficult, but the best of many poor choices,” the Rhode Island Democrat said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Biden announced last week that U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan by Aug. 31. Polls show a majority of Americans support Biden’s decision, but some Democrats worry that the withdrawal could lead to gains by the Taliban or the collapse of the Afghan government.
Reed said Sunday that if Biden had followed through on the Trump administration’s plan to withdraw troops by May 1 — in a deal with the Taliban that neglected to include the Afghan government — keeping that set deadline would have “prompted an incredible increase of violence directed against the United States.”
“I think it set a fixed date, rather than imposing conditions that would have then let us depart Afghanistan,” he said. “And it also, 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.”
American troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001, when they invaded to topple the Taliban shortly after the 9/11 attacks. While Biden has pushed back on the notion that the withdrawal will lead to the Taliban toppling the U.S.-backed government in Kabul, U.S. military leaders — including Gen. Austin Miller, the commander of the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan — have warned of a possible civil war in the country once U.S. troops leave.
But Reed sided with Biden on the issue, saying he believes “Kabul will hold,” at least for the time being.
“The question is, can it hold long enough to create a political solution between the sides?” Reed said.