WASHINGTON — Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., defended the U.S. withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan on Sunday, arguing that the move represented the "best of many poor choices."
Reed, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that while critics have assailed the pullout as a signal of defeat, the U.S. had achieved its goals to "a great degree" during nearly two decades of military operations.
"The purpose that we went into Afghanistan for was to degrade and disrupt Al Qaeda, to limit their ability to project attacks outside Afghanistan. To a great degree, we've done that. The job's not over. This is not a closure. This is a transition," he said.
"The president made a difficult" decision, Reed said, one that represented "the best of many poor choices."
Reed said the U.S. should "maintain continual involvement" by supporting the Afghan government either financially or by "providing them the kind of technical assistance they need" militarily.
The Defense Department announced last week that the withdrawal was 90 percent complete, two months ahead of President Joe Biden's Aug. 31 deadline but after the May deadline the Trump administration set.
Reed supported Biden's decision to delay the withdrawal, arguing that sticking to the original timeline "would have prompted an incredible increase of violence."
"Nearly 20 years of experience has shown us — and the current security situation only confirms — that just one more year of fighting in Afghanistan is not a solution but a recipe for being there indefinitely," Biden said. "It's up to the Afghans to make the decision about the future of their country."
As the Taliban make gains across the country, Biden faces criticism from those who say withdrawing U.S. troops is a serious mistake.
"It's a crushing defeat," Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said in a separate "Meet the Press" interview Sunday. "The Taliban always had a saying: 'America has the watches, but we have the time.' I'm proud of the American people for sticking by this mission for 20 years. We actually needed to do it longer.
"The Taliban have outlasted the will of the United States," he said.