WA Rep. Smith wants ’emphasis on completing the mission’ in Afghanistan, not deadline
Washington Representative Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, shared with the Michael Medved Show that he has been disappointed in how some of the aspects of the removal were handled, but overall, he supports withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Medved asked if Smith believes the president should extend the Aug. 31 deadline to be out of Afghanistan or abide by it, even with Americans and Afghans unable to get out of the country.
“The commitment we got — we had a classified brief for the full House from Secretary Blinken, Secretary Austin, Chairman Milley, and Avril Haines, [the Director of National Intelligence] — and their commitment was that we will not leave until all Americans, all third-party nationals who want to get out are out, and all special immigrant visa holders in Afghanistan are out,” Smith said.
“Now, we’re also taking out a bunch of other … Afghans while we’re doing this. So that’s the commitment they gave,” he continued. “And I pressed them on that point that if it’s not done by Aug. 31, we need to have a plan to stay past that to make sure that gets done.”
Smith says the goal, however, is to be finished by the end of the month, and it could happen.
“In the last 24 hours, they’ve pulled out over 20,000 people,” he says, which is why some places have been reporting that it will all be wrapped up by Aug. 31.
“If you do 20,000 a day, you got another seven days, that’s 140,000,” Smith explained. “So what we heard was they believe they can complete the mission by Aug. 31. What I and several other members pressed them on was let’s place the emphasis on completing the mission and not necessarily an artificial deadline.”
As far as whether or not Smith believes leaving Afghanistan was the right choice, he did support it.
“Ultimately, the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan is one that I supported. And I heard from my constituents loud and clear that after 20 years, our effort to stand up an Afghan government that could replace the Taliban, it wasn’t working. And how could we ask people to continue on that mission?”
“So, I think ultimately President Biden and President Trump made the same decision as well,” he noted. “I don’t agree with every aspect of either president’s decisions along that line. But the amount of commitment, the amount of troops that we would have to throw in, the war that we would have to continue to have fought, I don’t think would have been the right policy choice.”
He also believes it’s “pie-in-the-sky” thinking to say U.S. forces could have remained in Afghanistan without the Taliban attacking.
“If in fact there was a stable option — everyone says, ‘well, we’ve been in South Korea for 70 years.’ Well, yeah, but nobody is shooting at us in South Korea. If there was an option to stay in Afghanistan, to work with the Afghan government in a stable atmosphere that would have been one thing. But right now, I think a lot of critics are putting up a false choice,” Smith said. “They’re like, ‘oh, we could have stayed, it would have been fine, instead we left.’ If that was the choice, sure. That wasn’t the choice.”
“The Taliban moved forward. The attacks were coming. We would have had to put more troops in and continue to fight a very bloody war and toward what end?” Smith asked. “Two years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, what would have been different? So I may not agree with every decision leading up to the drawdown, but I don’t think we should kid ourselves about this that somehow there was an option where we could have stayed without paying a terribly high cost.”
Looking forward, Smith told Medved that it’s time to develop a counterterrorism strategy.
“We have counterterrorism strategies in Yemen, in Somalia, in West Africa, in Libya, in the Philippines, in a whole lot of places where we don’t have an occupying military force,” he said. “There are options to do that, but we definitely need to develop those options because the threat is real, as it is in a number of other places.”
You can hear Michael Medved every week day from 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. on KTTH.