Finishing his first overseas trip as a U.S. senator, Marco Rubio on Monday warned the Obama administration against setting an ``artificial timeline'' for the United States to leave Afghanistan.
``Everywhere we went, from the markets to the streets, to Afghan authorities . . . what we heard repeatedly is that it's important that it's clearly understood that the U.S. is committed to seeing this through,'' Rubio told reporters in a conference call from Kabul. ``Otherwise, there's a sense that the Taliban, even al Qaeda, is just waiting for us to leave so they can move back in.''
Rubio -- who returns to Florida on Tuesday -- toured U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, and fellow Republican freshmen from Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Rubio had lunch with troops from Florida stationed in Kabul and had dinner Sunday night with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The group also met with Gen. David Petraeus and toured Kabul Military Training Center, which is training Afghans for its National Army.
There, Rubio said he saw progress in a system that has been plagued with problems, including drug use, illiteracy and high dropout rates. Rubio noted that some of the men in the Afghan armed services had never driven a vehicle until trained on a Humvee or a mine-clearing vehicle.
Still, Rubio said, ``they're making strides . . . they are certainly a world away from where they were not so long ago.''