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Dan Crenshaw says he saw firsthand what confidential documents on Afghanistan publicly revealed

Representative Dan Crenshaw on "The Takeout"
Representative Dan Crenshaw on "The Takeout" — 1/24/2020 50:12

Freshman Congressman Dan Crenshaw said he knew what was in confidential documents about the war in Afghanistan not because he had read them before they were published in The Washington Post, but because he saw the failures of U.S. policy firsthand as a Navy SEAL deployed in the county.  

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The Texas Republican, a former Navy SEAL, was deployed to active combat three times as a member of Seal Team Three. In 2012, while on his third deployment in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Crenshaw was hit by an IED blast that exploded next to him. The blast killed a member of his unit. 

"It's like being hit by a truck, but everyone in the truck is shooting you with shotguns," Crenshaw told Major Garrett on this week's episode of "The Takeout." The blast destroyed Crenshaw's vision in his right eye and severely impacted vision in his left, but he remained in the SEALs and was deployed in non-combat roles twice after he recovered. 

In December, The Washington Post published the Afghanistan Papers, an investigation into 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, from generals and diplomats to aid workers and Afghan officials. The investigation revealed that although U.S. officials said they were making progress throughout the 18-year conflict, they knew those declarations were false. 

Crenshaw told CBS News he was pleased the Afghanistan Papers were released because they confirmed what the military —  and the soldiers he served with — knew: That taking control of the region and then giving that control up was a "politically-driven" decision. 

"What you're seeing from the Afghan Papers is what you would see from any large, complex organization doing a very complex mission. There's going to be very different opinions on how well things are going," Crenshaw said. "You're going to talk about the good stuff and you're going to make it sound that way. I think it's good the Afghan Papers came out actually and forced us to rethink that." 

The U.S.' current involvement in Afghanistan hinges on one question, according to Crenshaw: whether the U.S. would be better off if the U.S. allowed Afghanistan to be controlled by the Taliban. 

"It's deterrence against future strongholds for terrorists, that's really what it comes down to," Crenshaw said. Crenshaw favors keeping the current troop levels in Afghanistan, in order to engage in anti-terror operations and to train and equip Afghan government forces. 

"The days of roaming around grape fields where I was getting blown up, those are over," Crenshaw said. "Unless we're going to put 200,000 troops [in Afghanistan] and hold the territory, it's over and it needs to be over." 

Garrett and Crenshaw also discussed the numerous instances of misconduct that have come to light recently involving Navy SEAL soldiers, including the highly publicized accusations of war crimes by Edward Gallagher. Gallagher was acquitted on most of the charges but was found guilty of posing with a corpse. The Navy Board also considered stripping Gallagher of his status as a Navy SEAL. In November, President Trump intervened and restored Gallagher's rank.  

"Is there a wide-scale disciplinary problem in the SEAL teams? I don't have all the data to really say one way or another," Crenshaw said. "It doesn't mean you ignore the problems that exist. It just means that you should be balanced about it and be honest about what's happening and what isn't happening."

For more of Major's conversation with Crenshaw, download "The Takeout" podcast on  iTunesGooglePlaySpotify and Art19. New episodes are available every Friday morning. Also, you can watch "The Takeout" on CBSN Friday at 5pm, 9pm, and 12am ET and Saturday at 1pm, 9pm, and 12am ET. For a full archive of "The Takeout" episodes, visit And you can listen to "The Takeout" on select CBS News Radio affiliates (check your local listings).  

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