A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

McConnell calls result of Biden’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan ‘an unmitigated disaster’


By Mark Maynard and Robin Cornetet
Kentucky Today

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the outcome of President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops rapidly in Afghanistan, against the advice of his own military leaders, was predictable. He called it “an unmitigated disaster.”

“I think Afghanistan is lost. Every terrorist around the world – in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, in Africa – are cheering the defeat of the United States military by a terrorist organization in Afghanistan,” said McConnell speaking in Jeffersontown on Monday.

In April, Biden announced the U.S. would withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington that provoked the war.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell discusses the Biden Administration’s handling of the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan with members of the press on Monday. The Kentucky senator was in Louisville meeting with local business leaders. “Afghanistan is lost,” said McConnell. “Every terrorist around the world is cheering.” (Photo by Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today)

McConnell repeatedly criticized the decision and for months asked Biden to reconsider. The withdrawal was faster than expected with most U.S. troops having exited the country in July. It took a mere few weeks for the Taliban to regain territory across Afghanistan.

“I think it’s important to remember why we went into Afghanistan in the first place,” he said, referring to it being a haven for al-Qaida, the organization that attacked the U.S. on 9/11. “We went there because it was in our own interest to try to prevent terrorism and terrorists from operating in a safe haven in Afghanistan.”

McConnell said that he didn’t agree with the notion that it was an endless war.

“Over the last year, we didn’t lose a single American military personnel in combat. Not one,” he said. “Why were we still there? To keep the lid on so that this relatively stable situation would not become a haven for terrorists once again.”

McConnell said the two previous presidents also wanted to withdraw troops completely from Afghanistan. He said it wasn’t because he thought the area would ever become a modern democracy in that part of the world. But he thought it was in the best interest of the U.S. to keep it from becoming a haven again for terrorism.

“So, against everybody’s advice, including the current president’s own military, he decided to withdraw and withdraw rapidly,” McConnell said. “What we have seen is an unmitigated disaster, a stain on the reputation of the United States of America.”

McConnell said there should have been “adequate concern not only for the Americans who are still in Afghanistan, but the Afghans who cooperated with us, the interpreters, the people who were part of the government, the people who were on our side during these 20 years, while not only were we there, but the Europeans are there to remember this was a NATO mission.”

He said the gut-wrenching photos of people clinging to airplanes as they try to escape from Kabul are difficult images.

“I hope the president will put in enough troops to get out as many people as possible,” he said. “I fear also for the Afghan women and girls who in all likelihood are going to be put back into a totally untenable position by these barbarians.”

In response to a question, “How long should we have been in Afghanistan?” McConnell said, “Well, we’ve been in Germany and Japan and South Korea for over half a century.” He said having troops there was a “relatively benigh way to keep the lid on” and “avoid exactly the situation we are seeing now.”


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One Comment

  1. jeffrey hampton says:

    There are terrorists in countries all over the world – Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon and the list goes on. Does Mitch think that the US should place the military in all the countries that harbor terrorists??? Twenty years in Afghanistan was about 19 years and 6 months too long. We should have left after Bin Laden escaped into Pakistan. Mitch needs to learn that not every problem has a military solution, something he and several Presidents and Congressional leaders should have learned from Vietnam. Afghanistan is not called the Graveyard of Empires for nothing. Great Britain and the USSR could not pacify the country and there was no reason to believe that we could either. Although badly managed, Biden’s decision to get out was the correct one. The blame for this extends back to George W Bush who got us in and kept us in and to Obama and Trump for keeping us long after we should have left. Wars are easy to get into and there is the illusion that events can be controlled, but the truth is events in a war take on a life of their own and getting out is not nearly as easy as getting in. Hopefully the American people have learned this the next time the media and our leaders start whipping up another stupid war for us to get in.

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