US presidential hopeful: Keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan
Marco Rubio wrote in an opinion piece for the USA Today: “The war, which many mistakenly believed would end in a matter of weeks, has lasted far longer than anyone expected.”
The senator from Florida said the Afghans, besides fighting against a brutal enemy, had to deal with enduring challenges, including drug lords who had the country the world headquarters for the heroin commerce.
Widespread corruption had dashed the hopes Afghans had pinned on their new government, which was struggling to fight against warlords and organised crime and the resurgent Taliban, the lawmaker added.
He acknowledged Afghanistan had made tremendous progress over the past 14 years -- a new constitution, five national elections, the inauguration last year of a pro-Western president and a tripling in the size of the economy.
The senator accused President Obama and former secretary Hillary Clinton of failing to give the US troops in Afghanistan the leadership, the resources and the time they needed to finish the job.
“Obama, who campaigned on giving Afghanistan an additional $1 billion in reconstruction assistance per year, actually reduced civilian aid to Afghanistan every year since 2010,” he continued.
Rubio claimed the presidential actions had undermined the military efforts by announcing a timetable for withdrawal in advance, dictating a drawdown from 100,000 troops to just 10,000.
The Republican wrote Obama’s actions had made it possible for the Taliban to seize the capital of northern Kunduz province -- the first major city captured by the militants since 2001.
“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 destabilise nuclear-armed Pakistan, train for attacks against India and prepare attacks on the US homeland.”
Given such threats, Rubio stressed, the US must remain must equip the Afghans to combat the jihadists on their doorstep. But the Afghans were not yet ready to stand on their own, the legislator believed.
He warned 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.
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.