Washington, D.C. – This morning, Wyoming Congresswoman and House Armed Services Committee member Liz Cheney (R-WY) joined “CBS This Morning” to discuss the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan as a result of the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the country.
Watch the full interview here and see the transcript below:
GAYLE KING:Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and joins us now to discuss. Good morning to you, Congresswoman Cheney. This has been a disturbing turn of events —
REP. LIZ CHENEY: Good morning —
KING:And we’re all trying to process it right now. You look at the pictures, it’s terrifying, it’s very frightening. What concerns you most as we sit here on this Monday morning?
REP. CHENEY:Well, it is, of course, just catastrophic. It didn’t have to be this way. And what concerns me most going forward from a national security perspective is the extent to which al Qaeda, ISIS, other terrorist organizations now have an entire country that the Taliban controls. We know 20 years ago the Taliban was hosting al Qaeda while they planned the attacks against us. I also am very concerned about the prisoners that have been released across the country. You’ve got prisoners that were released not only that are likely — that will get back into the battle for the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan but will potentially populate terrorist organizations globally. So, we’ve really entered a very dangerous new phase now in the War on Terror, created an additional security situation and danger that we simply didn’t need to create — totally unnecessary.
KING: Now, I’ve heard you say that —
REP. CHENEY: And devastating.
KING: I’ve heard you say, “It didn’t have to be this way.” There seems to be enough blame to go around, a lot of finger pointing here in both directions. What do you think happened?
REP. CHENEY: Well, I think two things happened. One, in the Trump Administration the agreement that was negotiated, Secretary Pompeo negotiated, actually was a surrender agreement. It was a document that had a date certain for our withdrawal. It released, it guaranteed, committed to prisoner releases, and we were all told — the American people were told that the Taliban was going to renounce al Qaeda. Of course, that didn’t happen.
KING: That didn’t happen.
REP. CHENEY: So, we had — it did not happen, right. So, we had delegitimatized the Afghan government, cut them out, negotiated with the Taliban, a terrorist organization, signed an agreement with them. We never should have done that, but President Biden never should have withdrawn forces. I think, ultimately, when you look at how we got to this point, certainly there is sufficient blame on both sides, but this decision to just fundamentally withdraw really — we’re watching unfold what it looks like when America adopts a policy of retreat, when America adopts a policy of surrender. It makes us less safe, and it’s going to make the war longer.
ANTHONY MASON:But Congresswoman, I think a lot of Americans would look at this and say, “We made a 20-year investment in building up the Afghan army, and they couldn’t hold the country for a month.” Are you saying that we should have a permanent presence in Afghanistan?
REP. CHENEY: You know, what we need to do is determine whether or not, and I believe that it is the case, that our security requires that we have sufficient forces to work with the Afghans — that we did — to work with the Afghans, air support, counterintelligence, counterterrorism efforts, to prevent the establishment of safe havens. If you look around the world, if you look at Korea, if you look at Germany, there are places where we have troops forward deployed. And 2,500-3,500 forces on the ground, the insight that that gave us, the intelligence gathering capabilities it gave us, the counterterrorism capabilities it gave us, all of those things were, you know — we were able to do those things under the previous arrangement. Certainly, that’s been completely and totally eliminated now.
MASON:Secretary Blinken, Congresswoman, said 2,500 troops wouldn’t have been enough to hold back the Taliban.
REP. CHENEY:Yeah, well, it’s true that the enemy gets a choice, but they were holding them back. And our air power, our forces on the ground, our intelligence efforts, all of those things were working together. Now, you know, again, we had the agreement that was signed in the Trump Administration that began this process of helping to strengthen the Taliban. We invited the Taliban or were going to invite the Taliban to Camp David. Secretary Pompeo met with the Taliban, the first U.S. Secretary of State to do that. So, all of those things led to the moment that we find ourselves at, but ultimately this decision to completely and totally withdraw is Joe Biden’s, and it is one that is disgraceful.
KING:It is happening on his watch, there’s no question about that, but I keep thinking about the families who have paid the ultimate sacrifice during this — during this time period. What is your message to those families who are sitting here wondering, “What did we do this for?”
REP. CHENEY:Yeah, it is heartbreaking. I would say, first of all, all of the men and the women who have been deployed to Afghanistan over the last 20 years helped ensure that we didn’t have any further mass casualty attacks from Afghan territory. They helped to keep us safe. They helped to prevent the kind of attack we saw on 9/11. So, their service was really crucially important for our security. And I also think we need to go forward, all of us who are elected officials, committing ourselves that we’re going to conduct ourselves in a way that is worthy of their sacrifices, conduct ourselves in a way that’s above politics, that looks at what the security requirements of the nation are, and we need to have a very serious look now at how we’re going to, in fact, conducts counterterrorism operations around the world given the heightened threat because of this complete withdrawal from Afghanistan.
KING: All right. Congresswoman Cheney, thank you so much for your time. A lot to think about today.