Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Tim Ryan (D-OH) got into a heated back and forth over whether the United States should still have troops in Afghanistan.
Asked by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow why presidents of both parties cannot end the war in Afghanistan and whether he could do so, Ryan responded that the lesson that he has learned from spending 12 years on the House Armed Services Committee is “you have to stay engaged in these situations.”
“Nobody likes it; it’s long, it’s tedious, but right now, we have — so I would say, we must be engaged in this. We must have our State Department engaged; we must have our military engaged to the extent they need to be,” he said, before attacking President Trump for not appointing enough people to the State Department to remain engaged.
Gabbard — an Army National Guard major who served in the Iraq War — pounced on Ryan, drawing on the news that two Americans were just killed in Afghanistan.
“Is that what you will tell the parents of those two soldiers who were just killed in Afghanistan — ‘Well, we just have to be engaged?’” she asked.
“As a soldier I will tell you that answer is unacceptable,” she said to loud cheers. “We have to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. We are in Afghanistan where we have lost so many lives, we have spent so much money — money that’s coming out of every one of our pockets. Money that should be going into the communities at home.”
“We are no better off in Afghanistan today than we were when this war began,” she said, receiving more applause.
Ryan countered, “I don’t want to be engaged. I wish we were spending all this money on places that I’ve represented that have been completely forgotten.”
“But the reality of it is, if the United States isn’t engaged. The Taliban will grow, and they will have bigger, bolder terrorists acts. We’ve got to have some presence there,” he said.
Gabbard shot back that the Taliban were there before the U.S. and would be there after the U.S. leaves. “We cannot keep U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan thinking that we’re going to somehow squash this Taliban.”
“When we weren’t in there — they started flying planes into our buildings,” Ryan retorted, prompting Gabbard to respond, “The Taliban didn’t attack us on 9/11 — al-Qaeda did.”
Ryan responded, “The Taliban was protecting those people who were plotting against us.” He said withdrawing from the world would be “what President Trump is saying.”
“You know who’s protecting al-Qaeda right now is Saudi Arabia,” Gabbard shot back, before NBC News Anchor Chuck Todd cut them off.
The back and forth gave Gabbard the most applause she had received throughout the night.