As U.S. negotiates troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, Senators urge caution

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- U.S. Sen. Doug Jones and U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, of Rhode Island were in Huntsville Wednesday and the pair addressed the ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban over troop withdrawals in Afghanistan.

In the wake of 9/11, U.S. forces and their allies attacked Afghanistan for providing a haven to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He`s been dead for the better part of a decade, killed by U.S. troops, but the fighting continues.

Reed is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He’s been to Afghanistan 18 times and Jones joined him on trip to the country and Iraq in April

U.S. negotiators are currently negotiating a deal with the Taliban to end the fighting, but Jones, who spoke here at the SMD Conference Wednesday, has concerns.

There are currently 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

“I think drawdowns in Afghanistan have to be dictated by circumstances, not deadlines or timetables,” Jones said.

Reed, a West Point graduate, says terrorism from the region is still a concern.

“There will be a continuing threat by terrorists with the will and if they`re allowed, to, the capacity to strike outside of Afghanistan,” Reed said. “

The Taliban, which has fought the U.S. for nearly two decades has pledged to prevent terrorist attacks against the U.S. and allies in Afghanistan, if the U.S. withdraws its troops.

Reed is skeptical.

“I don`t think we can subcontract our defense to the Taliban,” he said.

Afghanistan is scheduled to hold elections in September and Reed said it’s a critical time. The Taliban claimed responsibility for a massive truck bomb Wednesday that killed at least 14 people. 

“If that doesn`t go well you could have political chaos,” he said. “So we don`t have a reliable partner in the negotiations. In fact, the negotiations are sort of avoiding the Afghan government and dealing directly with the Taliban.

Reed says it`s in the security interests of the U.S. to maintain viable deterrents in the reason.

“We have to have the ability to degrade, defeat terrorist groups in that region for several years, many years to come,” Reed said. “So, we have to have some sort of residual force.”

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