The Corner

National Security & Defense

McConnell Blasts Biden Plan to Pull Remaining U.S. Troops from Afghanistan

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A senior Biden administration tells Politico that the plan to withdraw the remaining 3,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September will not be based on conditions on the ground:

“Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake,” Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell says in a statement. “We’ve seen this movie before, multiple times. Ten years ago, when President Obama let politics dictate the terms of our involvement in Iraq, those failed decisions invited the rise of ISIS. It was our hasty abandonment of Afghanistan in the 1990s that allowed the Taliban to grab power in a bloody civil war and create the safe haven for terrorism that led to the September 11, 2001.”

Here’s McConnell’s full statement:

“Just moments ago, new reporting suggests the Biden Administration plans to turn tail and abandon the fight in Afghanistan.

“Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake. It is retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished and abdication of American leadership.

“Leaders in both parties, including me, offered criticism when the prior Administration floated the concept of a reckless withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan.

“Those same voices in both parties should be equally concerned about the Biden Administration’s announcement today.

“A reckless pullback like this would abandon our Afghan, regional, and NATO partners in a shared fight against terrorists that we have not yet won.

“It will also specifically abandon the women of Afghanistan, whose individual freedoms and human rights will be imperiled.

“It did not have to unfold like this. Today in Afghanistan the fighting is borne almost exclusively by our local partners. We have successfully solicited more buy-in and more support from foreign partners as well.

“Our NATO allies have practically been begging the United States to stay by their side.

“As a result, there was broad political support for a sustainable and residual presence to backstop the progress we have made.

“In 2019, Republicans and Democrats joined hands to support an amendment I authored that cautioned against precipitous retreats from Afghanistan and Syria. A supermajority of Senators voted for it.

“That amendment called upon the Administration to – quote – ‘certify that conditions have been met for the enduring defeat of al Qaeda and ISIS before initiating any significant withdrawal of United States forces from Syria or Afghanistan.’

“Can President Biden certify that right now?

“We’ve seen this movie before, multiple times. Ten years ago, when President Obama let politics dictate the terms of our involvement in Iraq, those failed decisions invited the rise of ISIS. It was our hasty abandonment of Afghanistan in the 1990s that allowed the Taliban to grab power in a bloody civil war and create the safe haven for terrorism that led to the September 11, 2001.

“Conflicts do not simply ‘end.’ They are won or lost. America and American administrations must be in the business of winning. Al Qaeda and other radical Islamic terrorists have not yet been defeated.

“There is no reason to believe the Taliban will abandon Al Qaeda if we leave. We know we cannot conduct effective counterterrorism operations without presence and partners on the ground.

“Foreign terrorists will not leave the United States alone simply because our politicians have grown tired of taking the fight to them. The President needs to explain to the American people why he thinks abandoning our partners and retreating in the face of the Taliban will make America safer.”

Update: This post has been emended since its initial publication to note that the latest reporting indicates there are 3,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, not 2,500.

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