Cong. Bruce Westerman on Afghanistan, I-49 delay
U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman, of R-Hot Springs, said the August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is arbitrary and unworkable.
In an interview with Talk Business & Politics on Tuesday, August 24, Westerman said he had just emerged from an intelligence briefing that confirmed his belief that the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan was impractical.
“No, I don’t agree with the August 31 deadline. I don’t think any time limits should have been put in place. I think it was okay to withdraw from Afghanistan, but to do it in a much better planned way using the intelligence we had and not setting arbitrary deadlines, ”he said. “We have seen it unfold before our eyes, the tragedies that unfold there. And I don’t think we can get all the Americans out by August 31. And we certainly cannot get out all the Afghans who have helped us for 20 years in Afghanistan.
Westerman supports the emphasis on military force in dealing with the Taliban in order to push back their efforts to take control of the country.
“I really hope that the administration and leadership will come back and tell the Taliban that we are not leaving on August 31. We’re going to get all the Americans out, and if they don’t like it, they’re going to face the consequences, ”Westerman said.
The Fourth District congressman agrees the Taliban was going to be a political force despite 20 years of American nation building in Afghanistan. The original American establishment in the country came after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Westerman did not know how the current political crisis could have been avoided.
“Whether or not the Taliban have returned to power, I think it’s really difficult to answer. I think they would have done it, but I don’t think they would have done it in that time frame. And I don’t think we would rush into the panic we’re in to try to get the Americans and those who helped our forces out of the country so quickly, ”he said. “I think it could have been done in a way where we left the country to the government we helped establish in Afghanistan. And if the Taliban, ISIS and Al Qaeda returned to power, it would go to the Afghan government. But it’s totally chaotic what happened.
Have 20 years of American presence in Afghanistan been successful?
“I think you have to consider the good job the US military has done and the fact that we have not had terrorist attacks like we saw on September 11, 2001 since we were fighting in Afghanistan. So it wasn’t for nothing, and I think when we had a small troop presence there in Afghanistan, and we had the airport and the bases there, we could react quickly to any type of plan. that the Taliban must come back to power, ”Westerman said.
“I think this is going to provide a safe haven for these groups to reform, and I think the lesson we can learn is that you can go out there and spend a lot of money and spend a lot of our young people’s lives. men and women to protect our country, but at the end of the day, these bad actors are always bad actors. They will raise their heads. It may have seemed like the right thing to do now, but I think in the future we’ll be paying for it again, ”he added.
Westerman is currently opposed to a $ 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate earlier this month. He wants to see a lower price and more traditional infrastructure spending, despite being open to broadband.
The long-standing and incomplete I-49 project is unlikely to benefit from the current infrastructure proposal, argues Westerman. The interstate highway would be a major corridor for transportation from New Orleans to Kansas City, with great benefits for western Arkansas.
“We are coming to where the Interstate 49 completion book would occur in the Fourth District and before long this will be the only part of I-49 that is not completed,” Westerman said. .
“As far as I know, there will be no funding in this [$1.2 trillion] package that would help with Interstate 49. This makes it very difficult for me to support an infrastructure package, or what’s called Interstate 49. When we first marked the Transportation Bill in the House for the first time times there was a provision that said you couldn’t build new highways, ”he said.
“You could only use the funding to make repairs on existing highways. So, to answer your question, though, we’re not getting close to Interstate 49. We should actually go back and do part of NEPA again. [National Environmental Policy Act] analysis. This is the environmental scan of the construction of Interstate 49, because it’s been so long since this work has been done, it’s frustrating. It doesn’t make sense to me why we wouldn’t give this more priority, but the infrastructure bill that currently exists is more about public transport and is beneficial for urban areas than for rural areas ” , he added. “I would like the infrastructure bill to focus on infrastructure, and for me it’s roads, highways, bridges, waterways, airports. It would include some public transportation, it would include broadband, but I think we could make a bill closer to half a trillion dollars and do a lot more in those areas than that $ 1.2 trillion bill. dollars would currently do. “
Westerman’s interview also touched on COVID-19, wildfire control and congressional redistribution. You can watch the full interview in the video below.