Washington, D.C. – This morning, Wyoming Congresswoman and House Armed Services Committee member Liz Cheney (R-WY) joined ABC’s “This Week” to discuss the deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan and how both the Biden and Trump Administrations bear responsibility for this disaster.
Watch the full interview here and see the transcript below:
JONATHAN KARL: Now Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a member of the Armed Services Committee and a former State Department official. Congresswoman Cheney, when you look at this, this effort, nearly 20 years of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, $83 billion spent to train and equip the Afghan security forces, why has this been such a colossal failure?
REP. LIZ CHENEY: Well, I think if you look at where we were, if you look at what it would have taken in terms of maintaining the status quo, 2,500 to 3,500 forces on the ground conducting counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations, this disaster, the catastrophe that we’re watching unfold right now across Afghanistan did not have to happen. It’s not just that people predicted that this would happen, everyone was warned that this would happen. We’ve now created a situation where as we get to the 20th Anniversary of 9/11, we are surrendering Afghanistan to the terrorist organization that housed al Qaeda when they plotted and planned the attacks against us. It’s inexcusable, it’s devastating, and it is going to have ramifications not just for Afghanistan, not just for us in Afghanistan, not just for the War on Terror, but globally for America’s role in the world — the extent to which America’s adversaries know they can threaten us, and our allies are questioning this morning whether they can count on us for anything.
KARL: Ultimately this is President Biden’s decision. He is the one that has called for this withdrawal, is going forward with it, but this didn’t happen in a vacuum.
REP. CHENEY: Right.
KARL: I mean, it was President Trump that negotiated the agreement with the Taliban to have a complete withdrawal that was supposed to actually happen by May 1st. So, who bears responsibility?
REP. CHENEY: Look, I think that, absolutely, President Biden bears responsibility for making this decision, but there is no question that President Trump, his administration, Secretary Pompeo, they also bear very significant responsibility for this. They walked down this path of legitimizing the Taliban, of perpetuating this fantasy, telling the American people that the Taliban were a partner for peace. President Trump told us that the Taliban was going to fight terror. Secretary Pompeo told us that the Taliban was going to renounce al Qaeda. None of that has happened, none of it has happened. Today, as we watched the Taliban, for example, release prisoners across Afghanistan. There’s very real concern that there are not just fighters in those prisons who will join the battle in Afghanistan, but that terrorist groups globally will, in fact, be fed new soldiers in their War on Terror from those prisons. It’s a devastating set of circumstances, but the delegitimization of the Afghan government, the notion in the Trump administration, the suggestion that at one point they were saying, “We’re going to invite the Taliban to Camp David.” They —
KARL: On September 11th.
REP. CHENEY: Yeah, this disaster certainly began — and look, the notion of, “We’re going to end endless wars,” that campaign slogan, what we’re watching right now in Afghanistan is what happens when America withdraws from the world. Everybody who has been saying, “America needs to withdraw, America needs to retreat,” we’re getting a devastating, catastrophic, real-time lesson in what that means.
KARL: Well, let me ask you about something your former colleague Justin Amash said. He said, “The Taliban’s rapid gains in Afghanistan underscore the futility of permanent occupation. The United States wasn’t able to meaningfully shape circumstances through 20 years of war. We’d have seen the same results had we pulled out 15 years ago or 15 years from now. End the wars.” That is something you hear, I mean, you hear from Republicans and Democrats.
REP. CHENEY: This is not ending the war. What this is doing actually is perpetuating it. What we have done and what we’re seeing in Afghanistan is instead of keeping 2,500 forces on the ground with air power, working with the Afghans, we were able to keep the Taliban at bay, we were able to prevent the Taliban from establishing safe havens with 2,500-3,500 troops on the ground. What we’re seeing now is actually the opposite of ending the war. What we’re seeing now is a policy that will ensure, ensure, that we will, in fact, have to have our children and grandchildren continuing to fight this war at a much higher cost. So, everybody, the Rand Paul, Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Joe Biden view of the world here is fundamentally dangerous and irresponsible and wrong.
KARL: But quickly let me ask you, as you know, poll after poll for the last several years have shown that most Americans wanted us out of Afghanistan. So, can you really maintain for the long term a military operation that most of the American people do not support?
REP. CHENEY: Look, as leaders we have an obligation no matter what the issue is to tell the American people the truth. We have an obligation to explain what’s necessary. There’s one question, one question, that matters when it comes to Afghanistan, or any other deployment of U.S. forces and that question is: what does American security require? And if American security requires that our enemies can’t establish safe havens to attack us again, then our leaders across both parties have the responsibility to explain to the American people why we need to keep a deployment of forces on the ground. This has been an epic failure across the board, and we’re going to pay for it for years to come.
KARL: All right, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, thank you very much.
REP. CHENEY: Thank you.