Washington, D.C. – This afternoon, Wyoming Congresswoman and House Armed Services Committee member Liz Cheney (R-WY) joined Fox News’ “Your World with Neil Cavuto” to discuss the continued fallout from President Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
Watch the full interview here and see the transcript below:
NEIL CAVUTO: I want to go to Congresswoman Liz Cheney right now — sits on the House Armed Services Committee. Congresswoman, thank you very much for joining us. Apparently, we’re told that the August 31st deadline, you know, grew to be something the president could not wiggle from because of a concern of a terror threat against our troops — al Qaeda comes to mind. What do you think of that?
REP. LIZ CHENEY: I think that it is an inexplicable and indefensible situation that President Biden has put us in. There’s one message that the Taliban should be hearing from the United States of America, and that is: If you do not allow us, right now, to withdraw every person we need to get out, every American, every Afghan who helped us, you will face consequences that will be more severe than you can imagine. That’s the message the Taliban should be hearing. Instead, we’re in a situation where we’ve watched over the last week, you’ve had prisoner releases that include, for example, external operations teams that have been released. These are al Qaeda teams that are specifically focused on attacking the United States of America. So, across the board, this decision that President Biden has made to withdraw from Afghanistan, and the way that it’s been implemented, has really increased the threat to the United States and put us at risk in ways that are hard to calculate, frankly, right now, Neil.
CAVUTO: Now, the drawdown in troops occurred already, as you know, Congresswoman — when we are trying to effort people out of the country, and it complicates things and, maybe, slows that down, but in the rush to get out, are you concerned that many Americans could still be left behind and that there’s no ‘plan B’ to get them? The Administration seems to be hinting that they could push that deadline back even though they’re not saying it as much, but it appears very unlikely.
REP. CHENEY:I’m deeply concerned about that, Neil. We’ve got, it seems to be, thousands of Americans still left in Afghanistan, and they’re not all in Kabul, they’re all over the country. The fact that the Administration right now is rushing to get out and is counting on the Taliban — and the other thing that Congress is going to need to investigate is the extent to which we’ve been making concessions to the Taliban over the course of the last several weeks. The treaty that was negotiated, the agreement that was negotiated last year, in my view, was a surrender agreement under the Trump Administration by Secretary Pompeo. It set this in action, it set this in motion, but President Biden bears direct responsibility for what is really a catastrophic decision that is going to put us at risk in ways that we have not been since before 9/11.
CAVUTO: Now, the Taliban has made it very clear, Congresswoman, as you know, that they don’t want any more Afghan nationals leaving or even thinking of leaving, conveying that, “We are not going to allow Afghans to leave, and we will not extend the deadline for them to leave.” Indicating again and again this is about Americans leaving and no one else. What do you make of that?
REP. CHENEY:Look, first of all, I do not believe that we will be able to get all of the Americans out by August 31st. I think it’s very clear that we are not on a path to do that, despite what the White House is saying. Secondly, you know, none of this had to happen, Neil. We had 2,500 forces on the ground maintaining a counterintelligence presence, maintaining a counterterrorism presence. The Afghan forces were bearing the brunt of the fight. We were working with them, and we were preventing the Taliban from gaining an entire country as a sanctuary from which their allies, al Qaeda, the other terrorist organizations like ISIS-K, the Haqqani Network, which now seems to be responsible for security in Kabul — all of those terrorist organizations, which want to attack the United States, now have an entire country as a sanctuary thanks to this withdrawal that we’ve seen President Biden order.
CAVUTO: You know, we don’t know what transpired, Congresswoman, with the head of the CIA talking to the Taliban leader here, but, you know, we’re left to leap possibilities like whether the Taliban had conveyed, “We can’t control what al Qaeda does,” and some of these other elements within the country. It’s best that you leave and leave by the 31st. What do you think happened in that meeting so we’re at the point we are where we’re leaving on the 31st, end of story?
REP. CHENEY: Look, we have now for many years had people in our government and across many administrations now think that the Taliban are somehow a partner for peace; think that we can negotiate with the Taliban; try to convince the American people that the Taliban is separate from al Qaeda. We heard that from the Trump Administration, we heard that from the Obama Administration, we’re hearing it now from the Biden Administration. It’s simply not true. The head of the Taliban has pledged allegiance to the head of al Qaeda. They absolutely fight hand-in-hand. You’re watching this Badr 313 organization, special forces for the Haqqani Network now seems to be in control of the security in Kabul. The idea that we have gotten ourselves into a position where we are actually pleading with the Taliban to provide American security is catastrophic, and we’re seeing the consequences and the damage to U.S. power and strength around the world. The damage that it’s doing to our military, the damage that it’s doing to our relationships with NATO, not to mention the Afghans who have been fighting with us who we are now leaving behind is immeasurable, and we will be working for many, many years to undo the damage that’s been done now in the last several weeks.
CAVUTO: Congresswoman, what did you make of the President’s claim that this was something that he inherited, that had President Trump had done things his way, we would have been out of there in May, and we were dealing with different numbers, a different situation. Here now, we’re talking about the end of August, later than the former president would have envisioned. What did you make of all that?
REP. CHENEY:Look, I was clear at the time. I think that President Trump, Secretary Pompeo’s determination to negotiate with the Taliban — Secretary Pompeo was the first Secretary of State to meet with the Taliban — that was a huge mistake. The document they signed was a surrender agreement. That document required concessions including the release of 5,000 prisoners. It completely eliminated, set aside, the Afghan government, didn’t allow them to participate. That was a huge mistake and one that emboldened the very terrorists that we now find threatening our people on the ground. But President Biden did not have to go along with it. President Biden reversed many decisions that he disagreed with that President Trump made, and ultimately he’s the Commander-in-Chief, and he made the decision to withdraw our forces, to do it in the way that it’s being done now that is just absolutely shameful and will certainly heighten the terrorist threat to the homeland, will certainly make it much more difficult for us to defend ourselves and for us to get our allies to trust us, and for our adversaries to fear us.
CAVUTO:Congresswoman, I’m sure you’re aware that President Trump in a number of interviews has said that this would not have happened if he were in charge. What do you think?
REP. CHENEY:Well, look, he set this in motion. He began the process of negotiating with the Taliban, he said many times the Taliban was going to kill terrorists on our behalf, he praised the Taliban, he apparently wanted to invite them to Camp David. So, he fundamentally misunderstood the situation on the ground, and did real damage to our partners, the Afghan government, by excluding them from those negotiations. So, the idea that you could sit at a table and negotiate with the Taliban, count on them to defend our security is wrong. And we heard a lot of things from President Trump and Secretary Pompeo that were wrong. But again, President Biden is the Commander-in-Chief right now. He’s the one that made the decision to withdraw now and do it the way he’s done it. He bears, certainly, the brunt of the responsibility for what’s unfolding on the ground.
CAVUTO:I’m sure you’ll indulge one more question, Congresswoman. The Taliban seems to be sending a signal that, “We’re a different Taliban. We’re not the same Taliban from 20 years back.” Do you believe that?
REP. CHENEY:Well, they’re stronger. They aren’t the same Taliban. They’re stronger. They now have significant sources of U.S. military equipment including, potentially, military equipment that’s got classified information that could now end up in the hands of adversaries like the Chinese. And they control an entire country. So, they are stronger, they have learned, and they now also are able to say that they have defeated the United States. So, we have deployed forces in Afghanistan for two decades. The men and women deployed there kept us safe, they prevented future mass casualty terrorist attacks from Afghan soil, but now on the verge of the anniversary of 9-11, the Taliban are basically calling all of the shots in terms of whether we can even get Americans safely out of Afghanistan. President Biden needs to say very clearly and very directly that they will suffer severe consequences if we are not able to get every single American out of Afghanistan. That’s the message they’ve got to hear, and so far he’s been delivering a message that is exactly the opposite of that one.
CAVUTO:You mentioned that we have not been attacked since 9/11, maybe because of our presence in Afghanistan. Now the Taliban rules the show and soon we’ll be gone. Do you think the prospect of an attack on the United States is real?
REP. CHENEY:It is unfortunately, Neil. It’s real. The possibility is heightened. We’ve heard, you know, many of our military leaders say that. One of the things that we knew after 9/11 was we had to prevent terrorists from having safe havens — we had to prevent them from having sanctuary. And that’s why it was so important to have forces on the ground working with the Afghans so that we could, in fact, help to prevent the Taliban from taking over the country. We’ve now — the Biden Administration has handed the Taliban an entire country. They’re going to declare a caliphate, they may have already declared a caliphate, they’re going to be welcoming other terrorists to Afghanistan to train, they’ve released terrorists from their prisons who will populate terrorist movements around the world. This step has made us significantly less safe and has increased the cost both in lives and treasure that we’re going to have to pay in order to keep us safe into the future. So, it’s really a calamity all around.
CAVUTO: Liz Cheney, thank you for joining us. I really appreciate it.
REP. CHENEY:Thank you, Neil. Good to be with you.