A great answer from the senator to Matt Welch of Reason:
Welch: [A]lmost from the beginning [of your Senate career], you have used the formulation in speeches and also in bills of, “Hey, it’s time to declare victory in Afghanistan and bring our troops home.” Can you give a sense of how the progress of that concept…has evolved over time?
Paul: Well, you know, it’s too slow for my taste—I think we should have been gone years ago. And I think that there is some progress, but it’s very, very slow.
There are two important pieces to the puzzle that are improvements. We have a president—the first president, really—to say that the war has long been over, there is no military solution, he’s bringing the troops home. And President Trump has said that several times. The problem is that several of his advisors that he has appointed don’t necessarily agree with him. So they either countermand his sentiments or talk him into delaying actually ending the war.
The other thing that I think has happened over time—and this is sort of both positive but also sad at the same time—is that you can’t meet a general anywhere in the Pentagon who believes there is a military solution to the Afghan war. That’s the main question I harangue them with when they come up to Capitol Hill to testify before our committees: I say, “Is there a military solution?” And they all admit there is none. There’s been mission creep that’s now nation-building, but they all admit no military solution.
My follow-up question is, “Then I don’t want to send my kid, your kid, or my nephew to Afghanistan, because if there is no military solution, what is one more death going to do over there?” But there are still a number of people who are of what I call the Vietnam village strategy—take one more village and we’ll get a better negotiated settlement.
I’m of the belief we need to declare victory and come home, because…it’s a mess now, but it will be a mess when we come home, too. And we just need to acknowledge that our original mission was to go after those who plotted or attacked us on 9/11, and there’s frankly none of them left. I asked the secretary of state this not too long ago, “Tell me who’s left. Tell me their names, and then we’ll talk about whether you have permission to stay there to get a certain person.” There’s no name left….We’re talking about forces that are associated with forces that are associated with forces that are associated with somebody else. It’s so tangential to have any link to 9/11 that it really doesn’t exist.