Premature Afghanistan Exit Would Jeopardize Trump Administration’s Record of Success
‘We are playing a limited but important role in defending American national security and American interests against terrorists who would like nothing more than for the most powerful force for good in world history to simply pick up our ball and go home…President Trump deserves major credit for reducing U.S. forces in Afghanistan to a sustainable level, scoring major victories against terrorists across the region, and ensuring the Afghans themselves are at the front of the fight. That same succes
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding the ongoing presence of U.S. forces in the Middle East to combat terrorism:
“The last several days have brought renewed speculation about the prospect of rapidly withdrawing all U.S. military forces from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
“Here in Congress, a small minority in both parties seem to think it is in America’s power to unilaterally resolve conflicts by simply walking away from them.
“Of course all wars must end, the question is how they end, and whether the terms on which they end are favorable or unfavorable to the security and interests of the United States. And nothing about the circumstances we face today suggests that if we lose resolve, the terrorists will simply leave us alone.
“Over the last four years, the Trump Administration has made tremendous headway in creating the conditions that will secure the enduring defeat of the terrorists.
“This president and his policies have strengthened America’s hand in multiple Middle East conflicts while reducing the risks and costs to our country. The ISIS caliphate has been shattered and millions have been liberated from their brutal rule. We have removed master terrorists like al-Baghdadi, Soleimani, and senior Al Qaeda and ISIS leaders from the battlefield.
“The Trump Administration has brokered diplomatic successes that should help bring long-term stability and more economic opportunity to a troubled region. The Abraham Accords are a geostrategic game-changer.
“The last four years have also brought increased skin in the game from our allies and partners.
“Our friends in Europe and elsewhere have a shared interest in stopping safe havens for terror. Today, in Africa, our limited American presence supports a multinational initiative led by France to combat radical Islamic terrorists. Likewise, in the places where American forces continue to play roles in ongoing conflicts across the broader Middle East, Secretaries Mattis and Esper worked hard and successfully to secure renewed contributions from European partners and to transition our posture more and more toward a supporting role.
“Our local partners are demonstrably shouldering the lion’s share of the burden of this fight. In neither Afghanistan nor Iraq nor Syria are American combat forces playing a primary role.
“We’ve scored major battlefield successes by supporting and working with and through local partners such as the Afghan National Security Forces, the elite Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, and the local Kurdish and Arab fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
“The situation we face today is totally different than we faced ten years ago. We do not have hundreds of thousands of soldiers engaged in combat abroad. We are not an occupying force.
“Today our limited American military presence in the Middle East is supporting local forces and enabling multinational efforts. We are playing a limited but important role in defending American national security and American interests against terrorists who would like nothing more than for the most powerful force for good in world history to simply pick up our ball and go home. They would love that.
“That’s why, last year, 70 Senators — a bipartisan supermajority — voted for an amendment I authored. It acknowledged the progress made in Syria and Afghanistan, identified the risks that remain, and cautioned that precipitous withdrawal would create vacuums that Iran, Russia, and terrorists would be delighted to fill.
“There is no American who does not wish the war in Afghanistan against terrorists and their enablers had already been conclusively won. But that does not change the actual choice before us now.
“A rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan now would hurt our allies and delight the people who wish us harm. Violence affecting Afghans is still rampant. The Taliban is not abiding by the conditions of the so-called peace deal.
“The consequences of a premature American exit would likely be even worse than President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, which fueled the rise of ISIS and a new round of global terrorism. It would be reminiscent of the humiliating American departure from Saigon in 1975.
“We’d be abandoning our partners in Afghanistan, the brave Afghans who are fighting the terrorists and destroying the government’s leverage in their talks with the Taliban to end the fighting. Our retreat would embolden the Taliban, especially the deadly Haqqani wing, and risk plunging Afghan women and girls back into what they experienced in the 1990s. It would hand a weakened and scattered Al Qaeda a big propaganda victory and a renewed safe haven for plotting attacks against America. And it would be welcome news to Iran, which has long provided arms and support to the Taliban and explicitly seeks our retreat from the Middle East.
“A disorganized retreat would jeopardize the track record of major successes this Administration has worked hard to compile.
“As a number of former officials and ambassadors recently stated, ‘The spectacle of US troops abandoning facilities and equipment, leaving the field in Afghanistan to the Taliban and ISIS, would be broadcast around the world as a symbol of U.S. defeat and humiliation, and of victory for Islamist extremism.’
“President Trump deserves major credit for reducing U.S. forces in Afghanistan to a sustainable level, scoring major victories against terrorists across the region, and ensuring the Afghans themselves are at the front of the fight. That same successful approach should continue until the conditions for the long-term defeat of ISIS and al Qaeda have been achieved.”
Related Issues: National Security, America's Military, Afghanistan, Syria, War on Terror, ISIL, Iran, Al Qaeda, Iraq