Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has criticized President Donald Trump's decision to add additional U.S. military troops in Afghanistan. In Paul's view, America's objective in the region has been lost and investing any further resources or human lives in the conflict would be wasteful.
On Aug. 21, Trump outlined his Afghanistan strategy during a speech in Fort Myer, Virginia. The president, who had pledged on the campaign trail to roll back U.S. involvement in foreign countries, announced that more troops were needed, The New York Times reports.
"My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts," Trump stated before an audience of military personnel. "But all my life, I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office."
Trump did not specify the amount of additional troops that would be committed to Afghanistan or what would be the objective for U.S. victory in the country. The president did assert that the U.S. would not focus on propping up the Afghanistan government, but instead on denying any potential terrorists threats a haven.
"A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda ... We are not nation-building again," Trump concluded. "We are killing terrorists."
That same day, Paul blasted the strategy in an op-ed, noting that the U.S. had already been involved in Afghanistan for 16 years.
"The mission in Afghanistan has lost its purpose, and I think it is a terrible idea to send any more troops into that war," Paul wrote in an Aug. 21 opinion article for The Hill. "It's time to come home now."
The Kentucky senator asserted that the U.S. was justified when it invaded Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but that a continued American presence in the region was no longer justified or productive.
"We went from striking back against those who attacked us, to regime change, to nation-building, to policing their country for them," Paul wrote. "And we do it all now with an authorization that is flimsy at best, with the reason blurred, and the costs now known."
Paul asserted that the human and financial cost of the war had spiraled beyond its original parameters, concluding that the U.S. could not fully stabilize Afghanistan "without a permanent, costly presence in the country."
The Kentucky senator added that he would push for an amendment that would transfer the discretion of war powers away from the executive office and back to Congress.
"If the president and my colleagues want to continue the war in Afghanistan, then at the very least Congress should vote on it," Paul concluded. "I'll insist they do this fall, and I'll be leading the charge for 'no.'"
Meanwhile, Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio also voiced dissent with the Trump administration's Afghanistan strategy, citing similar concerns.
"America cannot afford to make an open-ended commitment of further lives and treasure to the improbable proposition of building a cohesive nation in Afghanistan," Kasich said in a statement, according to The New York Times.
On Aug. 22, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley explained why Trump had pivoted on the war in Afghanistan.
"What you saw was [Trump] listened to his generals," Haley told CNN. "He saw what they were saying, but he also talked about the path forward ... What we are focused on is results, stomping out terrorism, doing whatever it takes."
There are roughly 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, with roughly 2,000 conducting counterterrorism operations, The New York Times reports.