WASHINGTON, D.C.-- President Obama announced specific steps he's taking to wind down the U.S. role in Afghanistan. But Idaho Sen. Jim Risch says there is still plenty of work to be done.
Right now, there are 32,000 U.S. troops spread across Afghanistan. The president is calling for a reduction to 9,800 by the end of this year. At the end of 2015, he wants roughly half that. And by the end of 2016, he wants a complete troop pullout, except for some security and embassy personnel.
Shortly after Tuesday's announcement, we talked to Sen. Risch about the drawdown. He serves on the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Foreign Relations.
As thousands of troops are drawdown after years in the region, the first question we asked Sen. Risch was, 'Did they accomplish their mission?'
I don't think that there's any question that the troops achieved their mission, said Risch. Any time they went into a military battle, we came out on top of it. The difficulty is the culture isn't a whole lot different than when we got there. The Afghans are going to have to stand up and take control of their own destiny. If they don't, history is going to be repeated.
Risch says there's still much in Afghanistan that U.S. forces will not, and never had control of.
That's why he says, no matter how many troops are in the whole region, the U.S. will need to keep an eye on what's happening there.
Whatever happens, obviously, Afghanistan is a country that is going to bear watching, just like a lot of the other nations that are breeding places for Al-Qaeda. So, regardless of whether we have troops there, or don't have troops there, just as in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan and other places, we have to be sure that we're able to identify those people that are trying to kill us and actively preparing bombs and sending them into our aircraft and those kinds of things. Regardless of the numbers that are there, that's going to take vigilance on our part, not just over the next two years, but probably for many years to come.