Biden Afghanistan Withdrawal Leaves Unanswered Questions
‘Rhetorical support for Senate resolutions and hollow promises of assistance from afar might ease our consciences… But they cannot take the place of the coalition forces in supporting our partners and vulnerable populations in Afghanistan. They can’t prevent the resurgence of al Qaeda… Where is the plan to deal with these challenges?’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Afghanistan:
“I’ve been outspoken on the importance of sustaining America’s support for local partners who are leading counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
“Even when doing so has put me at odds with presidents of both parties.
“When the previous Administration considered precipitous withdrawals from Afghanistan and Syria, I sponsored a bipartisan amendment warning that doing so could ‘allow terrorists to regroup… to the detriment of United States interests and those of our allies.’
“Dozens of Senate Democrats joined this measure.
“And last year, the Congress overrode veto threats and put explicit restrictions and reporting requirements on force draw-downs in the annual defense authorization.
“The goal wasn’t to tie the hands of the Commander-in-Chief. It was to force the Administration to seriously address the risks to U.S. interests posed by any potential withdrawal.
“But this spring, when President Biden announced his intention to abandon the battlefield in Afghanistan completely, without a plan, there was a bit less outrage on the Democratic side of the aisle.
“And yesterday, the President moved to waive the NDAA requirements Senate Democrats themselves had supported in order to proceed with his misguided retreat.
“The White House has yet to address the obvious risks of our departure:
“That the Taliban will regain control, al Qaeda will return to strength, and the people of Afghanistan – women and girls, especially – will suffer.
“We didn’t have to wait long for these fears to prove prescient.
“The Taliban has wasted no time ramping up its campaign to drag more of the country back under its oppressive, medieval rule.
“More killings of soldiers, journalists, and activists.
“More oppression of women.
“And more ambitious operational goals.
“As one Taliban commander put it, quote, ‘When we arrive in Kabul, we will arrive as conquerors.’ Well, they’re inching closer every day.
“And this is all happening before our retreat is even complete.
“Experts are still unsure just how quickly the Taliban’s resurgence will accelerate as we depart.
“That’s bad news for our partners in Kabul.
“It’s bad news for the Afghan military that is losing its edge without coalition support on the ground.
“And it’s especially bad news for Afghanistan’s women and girls.
“I know many of our colleagues share my concern for our partners in Afghanistan, and for the many Afghan women who have reclaimed so much of their freedom since 2001.
“Make no mistake: their future will be imperiled under Taliban rule.
“Rhetorical support for Senate resolutions and hollow promises of assistance from afar might ease our consciences… But they cannot take the place of the coalition forces in supporting our partners and vulnerable populations in Afghanistan.
“They can’t prevent the resurgence of al Qaeda, with whom a recent United Nations report found Taliban militants, quote, ‘show no indication of breaking ties.’
“Where is the plan to deal with these challenges?
“How does the Administration intend to combat terror or support Afghan forces from hundreds of miles away?
“How does it intend to counter the negative influence of Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, and others who might see our departure as a massive opportunity? Have we learned nothing from Russia’s intervention in Syria?
“Later this week, President Biden will meet in person with leaders of our NATO allies, many of whom have expressed concerns about the risks of a precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“For the sake of America’s security and the strength of our partnerships, it’s time for the President to finally offer some clear answers:
“To advance our shared interest in combating terrorists who still mean us harm. And to restore faith in our resolve to finish what we start.”
Related Issues: Al Qaeda, Syria, Afghanistan