U.S. troops are no longer in Afghanistan, bringing an end to America's longest war. TMJ4's Charles Benson spoke with former Speaker Paul Ryan about the decision to leave Afghanistan, and why he thinks it didn't have to end this way.
Speaker Paul Ryan made multiple trips to Afghanistan while in Congress. His last official national trip as Speaker to Afghanistan was before parting from his 20-year political career in 2018.
"I've spent a lot of time with our people in Afghanistan," said the Janesville Republican. "They've always said the terrorists have the time, we have the watches. They're going to wait us out."
The war in Afghanistan has cost taxpayers more than $2 trillion and tragically nearly 2,400 American lives.
Benson: "So, where did we go wrong? What did we get right?"
Ryan: "I think we lost our patience."
Ryan says Presidents Trump and Biden are both accountable for their decisions to completely leave Afghanistan.
"President Trump started with a bad decision," said Ryan. "President Biden doubled down with a bad decision telegraphed when we were leaving, pulled everything out before we got our civilians out."
An estimated 120,000 Americans and Afghan allies were airlifted out of Afghanistan in 17 days.
"It was time to end this war," said President Biden during an afternoon nationwide speech from the White House, a commitment he made while running for office.
Biden says the terrorist threat has changed since the Sept. 11 terror attacks and that "our strategy has to change." Biden defended his decision to leave, saying the only choice before him was leave or escalate.
"I was not going to extend this forever war and I was not extending a forever exit. The decision to end the military lift operation at Kabul airport was based on the unanimous recommendation of my civilian and military advisers."
But Ryan believes keeping 2,500 troops in country, similar to having a U.S. military presence in Germany and Korea, would have helped.
Ryan: "We could have stabilized the situation such that the Taliban won't run the entire country and be prepared to give free range to terrorist groups."
Benson: "Can you really negotiate with the Taliban?"
Ryan: "No, I don't think you really can. But I think we can prevent the Taliban from taking over the entire country, which is what they just did."
The 20-year war may be over, but Ryan worries about what's next.
"I worry in a year or two, we're going to have to go back. Why? Because all these terrorist groups will get all of this opium, money and all this support to be able to launch attacks from Afghanistan around the world," said Ryan.