U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding Afghanistan:
“Yesterday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley, and the head of Central Command, General McKenzie, offered the Armed Services Committee stark assessments of President Biden’s reckless retreat from Afghanistan.
“Curiously, the President’s shrinking Secretary of Defense, Secretary Austin, did little talking.
“The biggest takeaway was this: The President’s own account of the decision to withdraw does not match the sworn testimony of his top military advisors.
“Just last month, President Biden denied that anyone had advised him to leave 2,500 American personnel in Afghanistan. ‘No one said that to me…’
“Well, we had already learned weeks ago that our senior commander in Afghanistan, General Miller, had warned that a withdrawal of US forces would result in the country’s collapse.
“He had recommended up his chain of command that we keep a sustainable presence of 2,500 service members to keep the terrorists at bay.
“But yesterday, under oath, General McKenzie and Chairman Milley both confirmed they also agreed with the commander on the ground. They agreed we should keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.
“These top generals gave President Biden exactly the advice the President told the American people he had not received.
“To be very clear, Mr. President, the Commander-in-Chief gets to make the final decisions, no matter what his advisors suggest. But he needs to own his decision.
“The President publicly misstating what advice he got from his top generals is corrosive to the civil-military dynamic that keeps America safe.
“The military did their job. They gave their best military advice. It was rejected. So they saluted and executed the order of the Commander-in-Chief.
“But having rejected their advice, the President doesn’t get to claim he never received it. Nor does he get to claim, as he has since tried to pretend, that the only alternative to his botched retreat was sending ten thousand soldiers back to Afghanistan.
“That’s a false choice. We have heard directly from the two senior military officers in the chain of command as well as the President’s principal military advisor, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
“Everyone with an ounce of common sense knows President Biden’s botched retreat was not the ‘extraordinary success’ the President claimed.
“As General Milley acknowledged, it is more accurate to describe the withdrawal as a ‘strategic failure.’
“We’ve now heard confirmation from our top military officers that the terrorist threat in Afghanistan is already growing. And relying on ‘over-the-horizon’ counterterrorism leaves us with much less ability to do anything about it.
“What a debacle. We face a greater terrorist threat from Afghanistan than we did before we withdrew, we have less intelligence about that growing threat, and we have fewer tools with which to combat it. This Administration gave our enemies in Afghanistan everything they wanted and got less than nothing in return.
“Mr. President, I know some of my colleagues want to unilaterally declare an end to the war on terrorism. If only it were that easy. But the terrorists aren’t through with us.
“I hope my Democratic colleagues will think twice before they compound the failures in Afghanistan by trying to narrow or repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.
“I, for one, will strenuously oppose any further efforts by this Democratic Administration or this Democratic Congress to take away any more tools or authorities that our military servicemembers and intelligence professionals need to keep our country safe from our enemies.
“At some point we’ll have a different Administration that will better understand how to protect America for the long term. At this rate, they will need all the tools they can possibly get.”