(WASHINGTON) — As 10,000 U.S. troops prepare to leave Afghanistan over the next six months, two top lawmakers on the House and Senate Intelligence Committee, just back from a trip to the region, said they are concerned that the Taliban is growing stronger.
“I think we both say that what we found is the Taliban is stronger,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, agreed with her assessment.
The Taliban, an extremist Islamic group, was removed from power in Afghanistan after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, because they had provided safe haven to al Qaeda. But the Taliban was never completely defeated, and after U.S. military attention shifted to Iraq, they have continued to fight.
Critics of President Obama’s plan to withdraw U.S. troops say that the extremists could retake power in Afghanistan once our military is gone.
Despite a newly released Pentagon report that found that the Taliban is holding steady in Pakistan but slowly degrading in Afghanistan, both lawmakers said they are concerned that radicals trained in Pakistan could re-emerge as a new generation of fighters even if the current Afghan insurgency were to burn itself out.
“Are we willing to leave and have a safe haven re-form in Afghanistan?” Rogers said.
Members of the group are reportedly negotiating with the U.S government over a possible peace agreement. Obama’s position is that it is worth negotiating with at least some of the Taliban.
“Many members of the Taliban — from foot soldiers to leaders — have indicated an interest in reconciliation,” Obama said in a national address from Afghanistan this past week.
But Feinstein and Rogers said they are still concerned about the Taliban’s treatment of women.
“The Taliban threw acid on them to prevent them [girls] from going to school,” Feinstein said, referring to an incident that happened in 2009. “The Taliban, while we were there, tried to close schools.”
“We abandon those girls if we don’t get this right,” Rogers said.
All U.S. combat troops are scheduled to exit Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN