“The Foreign Actors Who Seek to Harm the United States Have Not Let Up While We Attend to Other Problems”
Our enemies would be thrilled if the United States grows too tired to continue the hard work of standing with partners, confronting our adversaries, and maintaining measured leadership that projects our security around the world. Our enemies would be delighted if we grow too weary to act in our own long-term interest. We must not give them the satisfaction.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Afghanistan:
“Make no mistake: The foreign actors who seek to harm the United States have not let up while we attend to other problems.
“For example, in Afghanistan, despite agreeing just months ago to engage in further peace negotiations with the Afghan government and sever its ties with al-Qaeda, the Taliban has instead continued its violent campaign against the Afghan people.
“President Trump has expressed frustration with the Taliban’s failures and is reportedly considering withdrawing from Afghanistan even more rapidly.
“But as we weigh our options, we must not forget the painful lessons of the last administration’s mistakes.
“Former President Obama and Vice President Biden were intent on beating a hasty retreat from Iraq, conditions on the ground notwithstanding.
“Just as many of us warned at the time, their recklessness left a vacuum that terrorists and Iran readily filled. ISIS flourished. Tragically, the rest is history. The resulting chaos threatened our interests and drew American efforts back into the region.
“By contrast, the Trump administration has seen a number of successes in this difficult region. The President’s strategy has secured a territorial defeat of ISIS.
“It has put new pressure on Iran and given the Iraqi people a fighting chance, which their new government seems inclined to take. But helping Iraq stand up to Iranian interference will not be an overnight project.
“Iran wants to drive the U.S. from the region. China and Russia would also be thrilled with a reduction of American presence and influence there.
“So, as we still struggle to clean up the broken pieces of one rushed withdrawal, we need to avoid repeating those mistakes somewhere else.
“I applaud the Trump administration for its approach thus far in Afghanistan. The President has taken constraints off U.S. forces. We have helped Afghan forces go after the terrorists. We have ratcheted up the costs on the Taliban, bolstered the Afghan forces that bear the brunt of the violence, and won additional international support for our mission there.
“And we have done all this with fewer resources and fewer personnel than during the previous two administrations.
“The President’s strategy and diplomacy have helped create a path for discussions among Afghans -- the only thing that can actually secure the country’s future.
“If these qualified successes continue, it would be appropriate to further reduce our American presence, as certain conditions are met. But we must retain enough forces and influence to maintain our counterterrorism capabilities.
“Given recent reports and our long-standing experience, we cannot just trust the Taliban will sever ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks. We need to be vigilant.
“We need to maintain enough presence to judge whether the Taliban complies with agreements and help the Afghan government impose consequences if they do not.
“We need to maintain enough presence to preserve our strategic foothold against ISIS, the Haqqani network, and Al Qaeda.
“And we should maintain enough presence to help prevent a full replay of Iraq or Syria, a bloodbath, and a human rights collapse, particularly for generations of Afghan women.
“Last year, a bipartisan supermajority in the Senate voted for an amendment I authored which warned against precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria in ways that could jeopardize the hard-won progress we have attained, embolden Iran and Russia, and create more pain for us and everyone else in the future.
“Our enemies would be thrilled if the United States grows too tired to continue the hard work of standing with partners, confronting our adversaries, and maintaining measured leadership that projects our security around the world.
“Our enemies would be delighted if we grow too weary to act in our own long-term interest.
“We must not give them the satisfaction.”
Related Issues: Iraq, Syria, America's Military, National Security, China, Iran, Afghanistan, ISIL