By Masooma Haq
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized President Joe Biden’s decision to completely withdraw from Afghanistan, calling it “one of the worst foreign policy decisions” ever made in the nation’s history.
“Now we are looking at the exit and over the next two days, our heroic military is doing the best they can with a horrible policy decision. This is one of the worst foreign policy decisions in American history. Much worse than Saigon, because after we left Saigon, there weren’t Vietnamese terrorists who were planning on attacking us here at home,” McConnell told Fox News host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Just because we decided to quit fighting doesn’t mean the terrorists go away. So they are still out there, they are invigorated, they are emboldened and excited about the success they say in bringing America to its knees in Afghanistan.”
Biden has faced harsh criticism from Republicans and some Democrats for not evacuating citizens and equipment before the military shut down the strategic Bagram Airbase, as well as being forced to send close to 6,000 troops into Afghanistan a day after it became clear U.S. citizens were stranded in the country.
Biden has defended the way he handled the withdrawal.
“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there. We were clear-eyed about the risks. We planned for every contingency. But I always promised the American people that I will be straight with you,” Biden said during an Aug. 16 press briefing at the White House.
Biden said the collapse of the Afghan government showed him that the U.S. military withdrawal was the right course of action.
“The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated. So, what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed, sometimes without trying to fight. If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision,” Biden said.
Biden also said he had only one choice because if he didn’t order the withdrawal, he would have had to send thousands of troops back into Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.
However, most critics of the withdrawal say that they don’t oppose the withdrawal, but how the exit was handled and that it could have been better organized to prevent the current emergency evacuation of U.S. citizens and allies, as well as preventing billions of dollars worth of U.S. military equipment from falling into the possession of the Taliban.
The Trump administration has said the withdrawal from Afghanistan that they had previously arranged was conditions-based and would have been assessed at the time to prevent any chaos or loss of life.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was involved in peace talks with the Taliban during the Trump administration, told Fox News on Aug. 27 that former President Donald Trump didn’t withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan like Biden has because he never saw the right conditions to do so.
“No one disputes that the right thing to do was to get these folks home, but we never found the conditions right to execute what President Biden chose to do,” Pompeo said. “President Trump wanted everyone out from January 2017. We never found the conditions right to do that.”
McConnell said that keeping the 2,500 troops in Afghanistan would have been the correct decision.
“With the continued deployment of 2,500 people, we were in effect keeping a lid on, keeping terrorists from reconstituting, and having a light footprint in the country. The policy was working. Therefore, I think calling it an endless war or claiming that we are somehow trying to get involved in a civil war, domestic civil war is simply not accurate,” McConnell said.
“We went over there to protect us here at home. We have not had a mass casualty attack from over there in these 20 years. I’d call that a successful policy.”
Melanie Sun contributed to this report.