October 06, 2021
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today delivered remarks on the Senate floor about what he and the members of the committee have uncovered about President Biden’s disastrous drawdown in Afghanistan from the initial oversight hearings and briefings.
As Prepared For Delivery:
Over the past two weeks, the Armed Services Committee held two classified sessions and two open hearings on Afghanistan. These were really eye-opening, and I think we have a lot more to uncover about what happened and where we go from here.
First, we heard from General Miller, the commander on the ground in Afghanistan through July 12. Then, we heard from the Pentagon’s top policy official, Colin Kahl.
In open testimony, we heard from Secretary of Defense Austin, the President’s top military advisor, General Milley, and General McKenzie, who is in charge of the combatant command that oversees the Middle East.
We also heard from two outside experts with decades of experience following Afghanistan and the region. Here’s what we learned:
One – We learned that top military leaders advised President Biden to keep at least 2,500 troops in Afghanistan—plus thousands more NATO troops—instead of withdrawing completely. They knew that if we didn’t keep a limited military presence there, the Afghan Security Forces would fall.
Now, this advice goes counter to what President Biden told the American people back in August. He said his generals didn’t advise him to leave troops there. Now we know that’s not true, and I happen to think he really misled Americans here.
Two – We learned that Al-Qaeda was never “gone” from Afghanistan, as Biden said. They were there all along, and they were a big part of the Taliban’s victory. Now, they’re focused on external operations. Al-Qaeda and ISIS could be able to strike American soil as soon as a year from now.
Even worse, the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a “shot of adrenaline” in the arm of radical Islamic terrorists everywhere. They now have a victory to point to.
Three – We learned that by completely withdrawing from Afghanistan, we nearly zeroed out our capabilities to strike those same terrorist organizations.
General McKenzie said he was not “confident” that the U.S. would be able to prevent Al-Qaeda or ISIS from using Afghanistan as a launchpad for terrorist activity. Here’s why—and this is important. The administration isn’t talking about this.
Afghanistan poses a unique set of challenges – it’s landlocked, we don’t have any bases nearby and we don’t have partners on the ground or in the region, like we do in Somalia, Yemen, and Syria.
Our generals confirmed that it’s extremely difficult and costly to get the intelligence and conduct the types of operations the President said he would do.
Let’s not forget—we still haven’t killed the terrorists directly responsible for the attack that killed 13 U.S. service members.
President Biden decided to put the Taliban in charge, hoping they’d changed. The first thing they did was broadcast a video on Afghan national TV saying the United States deserved the 9/11 attacks. Turns out the new Taliban is the old Taliban.
What this means is that Afghanistan is now the safest place in the world for radical Islamic terrorist. We’re at greater risk. We’re less safe.
Four – We learned — and I quote General McKenzie directly — “The war on terror is not over, and the war in Afghanistan is not over either.” But President Biden told Americans and the world the war is over.
Evidently, the terrorists didn’t get the memo. As General Milley put it, “Al-Qaeda is still at war with us, and never has not been.”
Five – We learned without a shadow of a doubt that our allies and partners — and our adversaries too — they are questioning our credibility and resolve.
In fact, General Milley said our credibility had been “damaged.” At last week’s hearing, our experts confirmed that President Biden’s botched withdrawal has caused our allies to question our ability to stick to our strategies and policies.
Six – We learned that our military leaders would not call President Biden’s evacuation operation an “extraordinary success” like he did. General Milley called it a “strategic failure.”
Now, I want to be clear — this wasn’t a failure on the part of our troops. Our troops served admirably. They rescued 120,000 people, and they did what they were told to do.
Their Commander-in-Chief led them astray. As Dr. Vali Nasr told the committee last Thursday, the endgame in Afghanistan was not our “finest moment.” That’s an understatement.
Seven – We learned that President Biden simply ignored a conditions-based approach. General Milley told us that the Doha agreement had seven strict conditions for the Taliban. They only followed one of them. That’s it.
President Biden could have easily said, “The Taliban has not met our conditions. We’re going to stay in Afghanistan and ensure no terrorists are able to hit us.” That’s what his military advisers recommended. But he didn’t do that.
The fact is, President Biden ignored the conditions on the ground and instead decided to accept a significant amount of strategic risk. That means the United States is less safe today, and our credibility for the future is shot through. That’s what his decision means.
We lost credibility because we left Americans and our Afghan allies behind. No one will believe what America says after this.
One thing we didn’t get a clear answer on despite repeated bipartisan requests — Exactly how many Americans and Afghan partners did we leave behind, and what’s going to happen to them? DOD pointed to the State Department and vice versa. That’s unacceptable.
We need these answers. That’s why I’m going to continue calling for more hearings until we get them.
Why does all of this matter? America is less safe than we were before because of President Biden’s decisions. Six years ago, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “I think Biden has been wrong on every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Nothing’s changed.
America is now more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, and we have no plan to meet that threat. We also have to think about what this means for our biggest challenges: China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.
China is engaged in a historic nuclear buildup. Russia just conducted its largest military exercise in four decades. They are watching this debacle, and thinking how weak America looks.
If President Biden can’t get counterterrorism right, how can his Administration put together a strategy to confront China and Russia?
Unfortunately, the “strategic failure” of our Afghanistan exit is encouraging our adversaries to test us – the exact opposite of deterrence.
That’s what I’m worried about now. I’m more worried about it after last week. That’s why I’m going to keep fighting for more open hearings to figure out what went wrong in Afghanistan.
That’s why I continue to push adequate defense funding, to make sure we prioritize nuclear modernization, and to pass this year’s NDAA as soon as we can get it on the floor.