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Marco Rubio: Keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan

Nov 5, 2015 | News

Most recently, Obama has dictated a drawdown from 100,000 troops to just 10,000 and has severely limited the amount of help that U.S. forces can give to their Afghan allies. Those actions made it possible for the Taliban to seize Kunduz, the first major city captured by that terrorist movement since 2001.
 
After the sacrifice of thousands of Americans — more than 2000 who lost their lives and tens of thousands who were injured— many Americans ask why they should care about Afghanistan any longer. Some question whether this is truly our fight. Afghanistan is a distant land and al-Qaeda seems, to some, a beaten foe.
 
The best answer is to recall the Taliban’s own history. The Taliban took in Osama bin Laden and many of his senior al-Qaeda associates in the 1990s. The Taliban denied al-Qaeda was involved in the terrorist attacks of 2001 and refused to hand its members over to the United States. The U.S. and Afghan governments have consistently offered reconciliation to the Taliban if it severs its ties to al-Qaeda and renounces terrorism. In 14 years, the Taliban has never done so.
 
Nor is al-Qaeda the only group that will be drawn to Afghanistan if the country — or portions of it — fall back under the Taliban’s sway. Islamic State has been increasingly making inroads in Afghanistan, even challenging the Taliban for influence in some areas. And any jihadist group with safe haven in Afghanistan could destabilize nuclear-armed Pakistan, train for attacks against India and prepare attacks on the U.S. homeland.
 
That is why the United States must remain engaged in Afghanistan. We must equip the Afghans to combat the jihadists on their doorstep so we don’t have to combat them on ours. We’ve trained 350,000 Afghan soldiers and policemen. The Afghans have fought bravely: Almost 22,000 have been killed fighting our common enemy since 2001, with more than 9,000 of those fatalities coming in 2014 and the first half of 2015.
 
But the Afghans are not yet ready to stand on their own. Withdrawing all troops by the end of 2016 would be to repeat the mistake of Iraq where the pullout in 2011 made possible the rise of the Islamic State.
 
President Obama should rethink his ill-considered withdrawal plans and instead commit to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan until he leaves office. That will allow the next president the chance to set a responsible long-term policy.
 

 
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