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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed the Biden administration’s decision to pull troops from Afghanistan, noting that Taliban forces have advanced in key provincial capitals in the wake of the U.S. withdrawing from the region.
His comments come as the Taliban has moved in on critical cities including Herat, Kandahar and Lashkar Gah, with the U.S. ramping up air strikes in an attempt to support Afghan government troops.
But the Kentucky Republican argued that the Taliban’s gains were foreseeable, skewering the administration’s decision to move forward with reducing military presence in the area.
“In April, when President Biden announced his intention to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan, he said it was, quote, ‘time to end the forever wars.’ But at every stage of the rushed and rudderless retreat that has followed, the Biden Administration’s wishful thinking hasn’t come within a country mile of the reality,” he said on the floor on Wednesday.
“By any account, the situation in Afghanistan has become worse as we have headed to the exits. We will live with the security, humanitarian, and moral consequences for years to come. And this whole debacle was not only foreseeable; it was foreseen.”
McConnell cited security experts stating that the “Taliban is likely to make gains on the battlefield” if the U.S. withdrew support, alleging Biden officials dismissed the threat, adding that the decision could pose a threat to the homeland should it not be addressed swiftly.
“Administration officials shrugged it off. They downplayed the chances that Afghanistan’s pro-American government would fall to the pro-terrorist Taliban. But now that outcome appears all but inevitable,” he continued.
“The Administration glossed over the risk of an al-Qaeda resurgence. But now, Secretary Austin is acknowledging al Qaeda could re-establish a safe haven and threaten the homeland in less than two years. And even that may be optimistic. They insisted that ‘over the horizon’ operations would be enough to keep terrorists in check. But now, just as the CIA director warned from the start, intelligence-gathering is already suffering.”
McConnell noted that redeployment has been necessary in certain areas of the Middle East as a result of destabilization in the region.
“The Administration claimed that resources tied up in the fight against terrorists were more urgently needed to counter Chinese aggression. But now, the manpower demands of this ‘over the horizon’ approach have required redeployment of forces to the Middle East and pulled an entire carrier group away from China’s backyard so it can conduct costlier, less-efficient, longer-range missions over Afghanistan from the Gulf,” he said.
“Much of the rhetoric from the president’s team has sounded almost laughably naïve. The Secretary of State has publicly suggested he thinks he can bribe the Taliban into being a responsible, peaceful regime with diplomatic carrots. That’s where we are.”
The Kentucky Republican accused the administration of abandoning allies and “ pretending that a future Taliban government will care about foreign assistance,” asserting he believes they are attempting to rebuild capabilities to be used against the U.S.
“Surely the Administration would not consider the fall of Kabul a success. Surely it will not look at the fate awaiting Afghan women and girls and say ;mission accomplished.’ Surely a terrorist resurgence or the assassination of our Afghan partners cannot look to President Biden’s team like a – quote – ‘deliberate’ or ‘responsible’ exit from Afghanistan, to quote this Administration.
“But these are the predictable results of their decisions. The consequences of making enormous changes with no real plan to mitigate the risks. The failure to learn from similar mistakes, like the disastrous withdrawal from Iraq in 2011.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghan cited the sudden withdraw of U.S. troops for the country’s worsening security position.
“The reason for our current situation is that the decision was taken abruptly,” Ghan said, according to Al Jazeera.
McConnell took aim at his colleagues pushing for the repeal of the 2002 AUMF, a move that his been met with pushback from a number of lawmakers with in the GOP who argue lifting it would limit the U.S.’s ability to adversaries in the Middle East.
“Here in the Senate, it is curious to see that some of our colleagues who are the most exercised about trying to undo authorizations for the Use of Military Force are somehow also among the quietest when it comes to the unfolding disaster in Afghanistan and oversight of ongoing conflict,” he said in his remarks.
“Make no mistake: whether America is on the ground or over the horizon, the war in Afghanistan will continue. And Americans will not be safer with the Taliban ruling from Kabul.”
Biden has defended his decision to pull troops, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of August.
“The Taliban is at its strongest militarily since 2001,” he said last month. “The likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”
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