September 22, 2021
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called for accountability from the Biden Administration on their missteps and misinformation regarding Afghanistan.
As Prepared For Delivery:
First of all, let me start by something that, no matter how often it is said, isn’t said enough: Thank you. Thank you to our service members who bravely volunteer to go into harm’s way for the security of the nation.
Thank you to those who served in Afghanistan over the past 20 years. Thank you to those who helped in the chaotic final hours. Thank you to our military families who stayed strong here at home.
And especially thank you to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and to their families. On August 26th, we were reminded so painfully of what we ask our troops and their families to do. They lay it all on the line for this country.
Our service members represent the very best of us. Over the past 20 years, they did everything they could in Afghanistan to root out evil and champion American values. I couldn’t be more grateful or have more respect for them.
I say this not only because we should say it more often, but because it’s important to remember that what we saw in Afghanistan over the past few months — that’s not a failure of our military.
It’s a failure of our commander in chief and the people who advised him on his policy in Afghanistan.
No one can look at what happened over the past few months and claim that it was a “success,” like President Biden did. It was a disaster. Leaving Americans behind is a disaster.
The administration keeps saying, “We didn’t inherit a plan.” That’s false: they inherited a conditions-based agreement and made their own policy decisions.
According to that conditions-based approach, President Trump agreed to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan if – and only if – the Taliban acted against al-Qaeda.
That didn’t happen. President Biden knows it, and Secretary Blinken admitted it.
When President Biden announced his decision to withdraw, back in April, a senior administration official told the Washington Post: “The president has judged that a conditions-based approach…is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever.”
And just last week, in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, when asked if the Taliban had severed its relationship with Al Qaeda, Secretary Blinken said: “The relationship has not been severed.”
Now, President Biden says he will hold the Taliban accountable. But he didn’t hold the Taliban accountable while our troops were still in Afghanistan, and he has presented no plan for holding the terrorists accountable now.
This decision – this rushed withdrawal that has left the Taliban stronger than it was on 9/11 – was President Biden’s alone. He is responsible for the chaos that followed.
He must be held accountable, as should everyone who advised him to make such a horrible decision.
What’s most outrageous to me is that President Biden left Americans behind. That’s not something we do. He said we were going to get everyone out – and that didn’t happen.
When historians look back on this administration years, decades, and centuries from now, this is what they’ll remember: The Biden administration knowingly left Americans behind.
The administration has tried to downplay this.
Early in the evacuation, Secretary of State Blinken said that there were perhaps 10,000-15,000 American citizens in Afghanistan.
Our men and women in uniform, working tirelessly and effectively with our diplomats under incredibly difficult circumstances, managed to evacuate about 6,000 of our citizens.
According to my math, that means that between 4,000-9,000 Americans were left behind. But Secretary Blinken says that there are only 100, and that the rest prefer to stay in Afghanistan.
That is more than bad math. It’s not true.
We know – and every congressional office who tried to get people out of Afghanistan knows – that there are many U.S. citizens who wanted to leave Afghanistan, but couldn’t leave because the Taliban would not let their families go with them.
Secretary Blinken wants you to think that these people made a choice.
He wants to hide the fact that the administration in which he serves created its own hostage crisis, and gave the Taliban the upper hand.
He also wants you to think it was the fault of these families they didn’t get out before August – repeating that they had been telling Americans to leave for months.
There is a kernel of truth to that, but it is clouded by the fact that they repeatedly stated that it would be a year, probably more, before Kabul was at risk of falling to the Taliban.
Instead of 36 months – the fall of Kabul took just less than 36 hours.
In addition to American citizens, President Biden left behind our Afghan partners, who risked everything to support our shared security goals.
As a result of the President’s decision, Afghan women and children have been thrown back to the Stone Age.
Our allies and partners around the world are questioning our credibility, our leadership, and our commitment.
Our enemies are bolstered by President Biden’s policy, which put Taliban terrorists in charge of Afghanistan—a policy that spread the perception that we not only abandon our allies and partners, but also our own citizens.
Seeing all of these failures, Americans are demanding accountability. And they deserve it.
But let’s make this crystal clear: None of this is the fault of our military. Our military leaders—the ones with real experience, on the ground—advised the same thing I did: leave a small force in Afghanistan.
This would have supported the Afghan military, prevented the Taliban’s takeover, kept the pressure on the terrorists, reassured our regional partners, and kept our homeland safe.
President Biden pretends as if none of this was possible. He claims he had two options: a massive deployment or zero troops.
In fact, I publicly supported a third option: maintain a small force to preserve our air power, counterterrorism operations, and military options. Many of us here supported a small tailored deployment to protect our core interests.
So did his own military advisers.
Yet when he was asked “Did your top military advisors warn against withdrawing on this timeline? Did they ask you to keep about 2,500 troops?” President Biden said, and this is a direct quote, “No, they didn’t. That wasn’t true.”
Except it was. We know that now. The former commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, General Miller, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that last week.
Now, he didn’t tell President Biden directly—because President Biden didn’t even bother calling his top commander on the ground before making his decision. But General Miller did report it to his chain of command.
He also tried to say Al Qaeda is “gone” from Afghanistan, and “terrorism is not emanating from that part of the world.” We know that’s not true.
General McKenzie said Al Qaeda remains the main focus in the region.
Last week the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier said that the projected timeline for Al Qaeda to have the capability to threaten our homeland is one to two years at the most—if not sooner. That’s it.
So President Biden didn’t tell the truth about having only two choices. He didn’t tell the truth about getting American families out of Afghanistan. He didn’t tell the truth about the advice he got from his military commanders. He didn’t tell the truth about Al Qaeda not being a threat.
So I have to wonder, what else is he not telling the truth about?
If we can’t trust the President on this — if we can’t trust him to tell the truth, and we can’t trust him to put together a good strategy in Afghanistan — how can we trust him to protect the nation from our strategic competitors?
After watching President Biden stumble badly in Afghanistan, I’m worried that he won’t pursue a strong strategy to push back on China – and China is our top threat right now.
As former Secretary Gates famously wrote in his memoir, President Biden has [quote] “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
I’m also worried about the administration desperately trying again to return to the Obama administration’s failed Iran deal, and offering Iran massive sanctions relief to get there.
Of course, we know Iran would just use that sanctions relief to ramp up terrorism.
And that brings us back to Afghanistan, which is only one of many examples in the Middle East and North Africa where the administration has no plan for countering terrorists and keeping us safe.
President Biden and his administration have broadly talked about a new over-the-horizon strategy to counterterrorism.
Over-the-horizon means we don’t have boots on the ground, we send planes in from afar – something our military leaders have told us is way more difficult, far more expensive, and almost impossible without partners on the ground.
Even if it’s possible, experts are telling us it won’t be effective.
We haven’t even seen a plan for how this will be enough to keep American families safe.
This is a failure of leadership. Along the way, President Biden has tried to blame everyone else: the Afghan Security Forces, the Afghan government, and the previous administration. But the blame lands squarely on him—he owns this.
We should expect his failures in Afghanistan to bleed into other issues: China and Russia see a weak America. Terrorists see safe havens and use Afghanistan as a rallying cry.
I still have a lot more questions, and I expect President Biden and his administration to have a lot more answers.
Thirteen brave Americans died in the chaos created by President Biden’s policy. We need explanations and we need accountability.
We’re going to hear from Secretary Austin, General Milley, and General McKenzie next week. We’re going to start to understand just what went wrong, who’s to blame, and what we need to do next to protect ourselves.
We’re going to do this as transparently and openly as possible—because the American people deserve the truth. Our service members and their families who sacrificed so much over the last 20 years deserve that too.