(CBS4)– For a second day in a row, top military leaders were grilled by lawmakers over the chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. It was the House committee’s turn Wednesday, and Colorado Rep. Jason Crow was among the lawmakers taking part.
“We should’ve been having these discussions and asking these questions many years ago,” Crow, who sits on the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committee, said. “I was fighting this war in 2004 and 2005 in the mountains of Afghanistan. I often thought to myself, ‘Why aren’t we having this debate? Why aren’t we having these hard discussions?’”
Just about a month after America’s longest war came to an end, former Army Ranger turned Congressman Crow, a Democrat representing Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, is part of that hard discussion.
“The fact that America… allowed this war to go on for two decades, over 2,400 Americans dead, trillions of dollars spent, that shouldn’t have happened,” he said.
An extended congressional review of what happened in Afghanistan is underway. Top military officials are trying to explain how the war ended in chaos with the Taliban back in control.
“It was a logistical success, but a strategic failure,” General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday.
Crow doesn’t necessarily agree.
“I think it was a political failure that spans four administrations, 10 Congresses,” he told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann. “For 20 years, Congress gave a blank check to administration after administration, Republican and Democrat, and we allowed the tough conversations to be deferred.”
Now, Crow wants the conversation to be more than tough talk.
“Looking back over the last 20 years is not just for a textbook. We have an obligation to learn lessons, so we don’t do this again, so that the things we’re doing right now we do better,” he said. “We have combat operations around the entire world and we’re going to be in situations again in the future where we’re going to have to build capacity and partner forces. We’re going to have to address terrorism.”
Milley also warned Tuesday that Al Qaeda may rebuild under the Taliban and could pose a possible threat to the U.S. in as soon as 12 months. Crow said he shares in that concern.
“I always worry about that. It’s my job to worry about that,” he said. “Clearly we have some challenges ahead of us to make sure we’re saving the Afghan partners that we weren’t able to evacuate, making sure we’re able to address any terrorist threats that may originate from Afghanistan. But, all in all… American men and women, our sons and daughters, are no longer fighting this war and that is an accomplishment.”
Crow said he thinks the Department of Defense has done a “very good job” of being open and transparent, but he wants more answers from the State Department on what the process is going to be helping our Afghan partners and the status of evacuees.
“Going forward, we have Afghan friends and partners who are still stuck in Afghanistan,” he said. “I’m going to work relentlessly to get as many of those folks out as we possibly can because we do have a moral obligation to them. It’s a national security imperative as well.”