SPEECH: Biden's Afghanistan Debacle
Mr. President, there have been a lot of discussions on the floor today--and I fully support them--about an important, important role of the U.S. Senate that we need to take on with regard to our oversight responsibility of what the entire country has recently observed as a fiasco, debacle, with regard to foreign policy in Afghanistan that is going to have consequences for years.
Like all of us, I was home over August when all of these images on TV were unfolding. And I will tell you, I don't think I have ever seen my constituents madder about a single issue than this. It wasn't just Republicans. It was across-the-board Alaskans.
Because they saw our great country humiliated. They witnessed time and time again the President of the United States, the Commander in Chief, telling them blatant falsehoods that they knew were falsehoods, and there is yet to be any accountability on this.
Now, the hearings have begun. We have had two hearings on the Armed Services Committee, but they continue to insist on keeping them classified. No reason to do that. We need to have these hearings out in the open. The American people want to see them.
We had hearings on the Foreign Relations Committee this past week, and we started to see the beginnings of the Biden administration's strategy as it relates to explaining this fiasco, this debacle.
What is it?
Remarkably, it is to blame Donald Trump--if you watch the Secretary of State testify in front of the Foreign Relations Committee--and then blame the Generals, and then continue to quote the President of the United States that this withdrawal in Afghanistan was ``an extraordinary success.'' Let me repeat that: An ``extraordinary success.''
That is what the President of the United States has called this. And, unfortunately, his Secretary of State, his Under Secretary of Defense--who testified in front of the Armed Services Committee just a couple of days ago in a hearing that was the height of deniability on any responsibility--all of them continue to cling to this blatant falsehood that every American knows is not the case.
This wasn't an extraordinary success, what we witnessed in Afghanistan. The whole country knows that. In fact, the whole world knows that.
This is the cover from a few weeks ago of The Economist magazine--pretty honest, well-respected magazine. Much of the world reads it.
And that is what The Economist called it: ``Biden's debacle.'' If you look in the magazine, it goes into several articles about the implications of Biden's debacle. Here are some of the names, titles of the articles in this magazine: ``The fiasco in Afghanistan is a huge and unnecessary blow to America's standing'' in the world. That is not an extraordinary success. How about this one from another article in The Economist: ``Joe Biden blames everyone else.'' That is not accountability. And then perhaps most importantly: ``The big win for China in Afghanistan is seeing America humbled.''
These are articles in an international magazine--a well-respected international magazine--that the whole world is reading, and this is what happened in Afghanistan. It wasn't an extraordinary success; to the contrary, it was a debacle. It was a debacle.
Now, some things are becoming increasingly clear. The administration tries to defend this, tries to explain it. As The Economist magazine mentions, this is President Biden's fiasco. Despite attempts by the civilian leadership in the Biden administration to explain this away with regard to blame on Donald Trump or the generals, this was 100 percent President Biden's decision and debacle.
It is becoming increasingly clear even in the classified hearings that we have had on the Armed Services Committee that the President's senior military advisers said to the President: Do not do this, sir. Do not go to zero with our troops. Instead, you should keep a small force there.
Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly clear that the President's military advisers then said to the President: If you do go to zero, if you do get rid of all our troops--especially if they are pulled out before others leave--you are going to see many bad things happen tactically, operationally, strategically for our country.
In essence, what Americans witnessed and saw on TV in August--this was predicted. The President was told this. He ignored this advice, so he owns this debacle. What he needs to do now is tell the truth about it. He and his administration need to tell the truth about it.
There are many things that are disturbing about what has happened over the last several weeks in Afghanistan, but what has been so disturbing is not only how the President has been blaming everyone but himself; it is that when he talks to the American people about this issue, he has clearly not been telling the truth, and the American people know it.
Let's start with the issue I just mentioned: the advice that the President received from his military advisers.
President Biden was on a media interview show on August 18 as this whole fiasco was unfolding. He was asked:
Your top military advisors warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops.
That was the question from George Stephanopoulos. The President of the United States said:
No, they didn't.
Later, Stephanopoulos pressed: Your military advisers told you not to do
this, that ``we should keep 2,500 troops'' in Afghanistan.
The President of the United States:
No. No one said that to me that I can recall.
That is not true. That is not true. During that same interview, George Stephanopoulos said:
We've got, like, 10,000 to 15,000 Americans in the country. . . . Are you committed to making sure that [American] troops stay until every American who wants to [leave gets] out?
That was the question. The President said:
I am quoting him:
If there's American citizens left, we're gonna stay--
The military is going to stay-- [until we] get them all out.
That is a quote from the President of the United States. That wasn't true.
In a later interview, the President mentioned that al-Qaida is all gone from Afghanistan. That isn't true. We know that.
The President also said that our NATO allies:
Every one of them knew and agreed with the decision I made to end, jointly end, our involvement in Afghanistan.
That is not true. That is not true.
Then the President and his advisers--the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy most recently--have been highlighting this incredible, over-the-horizon capability to go after terrorists whom we still have in Afghanistan. That, we know, has been greatly diminished. We have heard that from the military leaders who know these issues. So even on that issue, they are not leveling with the American people.
These are not small, marginal misstatements I am talking about; these are dramatic, obvious falsehoods that go to the very heart of the foreign policy fiasco we have all witnessed. These are life-and-death deceptions that the President of the United States told the American people and he told the world.
Here is the thing: The American people, the people in Britain, the people in our NATO ally countries, the leaders in countries that are adversaries--everybody knows that these statements were false.
One of the many things that are so harmful to come out of this, because of these kinds of statements--when they come from the Commander in Chief, this undermines the credibility and honor of the United States of America in front of the rest of the world. That is one of the major reasons why so many of my fellow Alaskans and our fellow Americans are so upset by this Biden debacle.
There are going to be more hearings next week in the Armed Services Committee. We are finally going to have open hearings. What we will need are straight, truthful answers from the witnesses, particularly those in uniform, who are not obligated to cover for the Commander in Chief's unwise decisions or blatant falsehoods. To the contrary, these witnesses will need to tell the truth--will need to tell the truth.
Speaking of the truth, Mr. President, here is one truth that, to me, has been clear for months, and I have been talking about it for months, and it is even more relevant and urgent today in light of this foreign policy fiasco in Afghanistan. The Biden administration's budget is dangerous to America.
Take a look at it, America. This is a $6 trillion budget--$6 trillion budget--where almost every Federal Agency in the U.S. Government gets a big increase in its budget; some 40 percent, 20 percent; all this green; double digits for most. Two Agencies--two Agencies--in this Biden budget blowout actually get cuts. Adjusted for inflation, they are cuts. Which are they? The Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.
If you are looking at the border right now, you know that Homeland Security doesn't need a budget cut, and we certainly, in this time of increasing danger globally, don't need the Department of Defense cut, but that is what this administration is doing right now.
Like the President's actions and statements on Afghanistan, this budget is divorced from reality because here is the reality: We have a growing threat from international terrorism once again as Afghanistan once again has become a safe haven for some of the most dangerous, violent, extremist organizations on the planet. We know it. We see it. The Taliban, the Haqqani network, ISIS-K, al-Qaida--they are all celebrating, and they are all coming back to Afghanistan, and guess what they are doing. They are plotting against this great country. It didn't have to be this way, but that is the reality.
Here is another reality: After watching this administration's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, our adversaries are going to test Joe Biden's will in other areas of the world. It is going to happen--Russia with regard to Ukraine or the Baltics or Poland; Iran with regard to Israel, which the terrorist leaders in that country continue to say they want to wipe off the face of the Earth; and, of course, communist China, with Taiwan. As some of you may have seen, during the Biden Afghanistan debacle, China started rattling its saber as it relates to Taiwan for this very reason.
Let me underscore this again. The weakness and lack of resolve demonstrated by the Biden administration in Afghanistan and this very weak military budget is likely, I think--very likely, unfortunately--to invite aggression by our adversaries in other parts of the world.
Here is my message to the President and his team: You better be ready for this. You better be strong. And being strong starts with supporting a Department of Defense budget that is not cutting our readiness, as this one clearly does, and actually matches the realities of the more dangerous world we now find ourselves in because of this President's foreign policy incompetence.
I yield the floor.
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