President Donald Trump announced this week he would reduce the number of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said the mission “has been over for a long time,” and has been trying for years to end the war in Afghanistan. Paul said he believes there is no “significant worldwide terrorist threat coming from Afghanistan.”

“I’m very much for ending the war. I’m not for leaving a small amount. I’m for ending the war because it’s gone on too long and it really makes no sense,” Paul said.

Paul said that with personnel changes, they can hopefully reduce the numbers to a small amount and that it will be up to President-elect Joe Biden to decide if they want to end or ramp up the war.

“We put ... thousands of tons of arms in there at the behest of Hillary Clinton, Obama and Biden, and many neo-con Republicans as well,” Paul said.

Former President Barack Obama’s administration had ramped up the amount of troops in the region to a peak of 100,000 in 2011.

There have been critics to Trump’s decision by key defense leaders. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “But at the same time, the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high.”

The military chain of command also have said the necessary conditions had not been met in the area to pull troops outs.

Edmund Fitton-Brown, coordinator of a United Nations monitoring team on the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and Taliban, said in October to the BBC these groups could seek to exploit a weak Afghan state.

Paul said his question to critics on the personnel changes is when would it be the right time to end the war and pull out troops?

He made an amend­ment July 1 to the Na­tion­al Defense Auth­or­i­zation Act which would have required the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in a year, but was rejected by the Senate.

He said the solution to ending the wars and combating terrorism is to use worldwide surveillance to monitor what happens, and then act on that information.

“We need to defend ourselves when we need to defend ourselves, but we don’t need to be mired in various countries,” Paul said.

In regards to a possible power vacuum forming if troops are pulled back, while Paul said it is true terrorism can thrive in a power vacuum, but it is the regime changes that are led in from wars which cause these vacuums in the first place.

Paul cites Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad and Muammar Gaddafi as examples of dictators who ruled with an iron fist, but whose countries became hotbeds for terrorism after their regimes had fallen or were affected

“I’ve been against the regime change in general. And I think that that is what leads to the power vacuum, that’s what leads to the rise of terrorism,” Paul said.

Paul said it is “laughable” to hear critics say it might be too soon or too precipitous to leave Afghanistan and Iraq after 20 years. He said in 2001, after 9/11, the plan was to disrupt and destroy those who aided or attacked on that day and that was accomplished.

Since then, Paul said the U.S. has been fighting a civil war between the Taliban and the installed government.

“You have to realize that what we’re sort of fighting for, and we’re asking our young men and women to lay their lives down for, is often supporting some drug dealer who is a warlord, versus the Taliban,” Paul said.

Andrew Harp can be reached at 270-505-1747 or aharp@thenewsenterprise.com.

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