US Senate News:
Source: United States Senator for Connecticut – Chris Murphy
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, on Tuesday questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, focusing on what was in and outside of the United States’ control. Murphy also highlighted the heroic efforts to evacuate 130,000 people from Afghanistan and how ending this 20-year war will allow the U.S. to reorient its resources and focus on countering threats from China and Russia.
Murphy said: “I think what links our failures in Iraq and Afghanistan is that they are both fundamentally failures of hubris, believing that we can control things and influence events on the other side of the world that are beyond our control or influence. America can be a force for good in the world, but there is a limit to what we can achieve. And so there’s been decades long magical thinking with respect to what’s in our control and what’s outside of our control. As it turns out, it wasn’t within our control to be able to stand up in American-style democracy, an American looking military in Afghanistan that was going to be able to protect the country from the Taliban, but we spent 20 years trying to achieve it.”
On the importance of acknowledging the limits of military tools and taking on the “execute-better” critics, Murphy said: “[W]e have to have a reckoning in this country about what we can accomplish and what we can’t accomplish. It’s extraordinary that this administration got [124,000] people out of Afghanistan, given those circumstances, given the situation that they inherited, that you inherited in January of this year…But if we just simply leave today, believing that if we had planned better, if we had better execution, we could have avoided this panic and confusion, I think we’re just inviting another Iraq, another Afghanistan in the future.”
Today, Murphy penned an op-ed for Crooked Media making the case for why critics of President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan are dangerously wrong. Murphy joined CNN International’s Amanpour with Christiane Amanpour last week to discuss the United States’ role in the world following the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the reactions of world leaders during his CODEL to Lebanon, Israel, the West Bank, Tunisia and Greece. Murphy has long been supportive of President Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
A full transcript of Murphy’s exchange with Secretary Blinken can be found below:
MURPHY: “Thank you Mr. Secretary for spending so much time with us. I think what links our failures in Iraq and Afghanistan is that they are both fundamentally failures of hubris, believing that we can control things and influence events on the other side of the world that are beyond our control or influence. America can be a force for good in the world, but there is a limit to what we can achieve. And so there’s been decades long magical thinking with respect to what’s in our control and what’s outside of our control. As it turns out, it wasn’t within our control to be able to stand up in American-style democracy, an American looking military in Afghanistan that was going to be able to protect the country from the Taliban, but we spent 20 years trying to achieve it.
“And so Mr. Secretary, you covered some of this in your opening remarks. But I wanted to ask you a series of questions to try to level set for the Committee, the situation you inherited. Right, what was in your control? What was outside of your control? And then to look at the events of the last 30 to 40 days with that same lens. What was in your control? What was outside of your control? I think these are yes or no answers. Some of it you’ve covered in your testimony, but I think it’s important to get it on the record. So Mr. Secretary, if President Biden had chosen to breach the agreement that President Trump had signed with the Taliban, would the Taliban have restarted attacks against US troops and basis?”
MURPHY: “As you said in your opening testimony, by the time the administration took office, the Taliban was on the outskirts of several provincial capitals. If President Biden had chosen to breach the agreement between President Trump and the Taliban would the Taliban have begun offensives on these urban centers?”
MURPHY: “So if Taliban had begun its siege on these cities and resumed attacks on U.S. troops, would 2,500 troops have been enough to keep the country from falling to the Taliban?”
MURPHY: “Would double that number have been enough? Do we know how big our force would have had to have gotten?”
BLINKEN: “I think it was the assessment of our military leaders that, not to put a number on it, but significant additional U.S. forces would have been required both to protect ourselves and to prevent the onslaught from the Taliban against the provincial capitals and ultimately against Kabul.”
MURPHY: “This wasn’t a decision between leaving and the status quo. This was a decision between a significant commitment of new U.S. resources to the fight or the continuation of a withdrawal plan.”
BLINKEN: “That’s correct.”
MURPHY: “Okay, let’s talk about the last month. So once the Afghan government and the military disintegrate all at once, it seems to me it was pretty predictable and understandable that there would be panic on the ground amongst the Afghan people. So could it be expected that a few thousand U.S. troops and diplomats on the ground at the time would have been able to prevent this panic?”
MURPHY: “Much has been made about these dramatic and heartbreaking scenes at the airport. Were 2,500 or 5,000 troops enough to stop the Afghan people from rushing to the airport that created this security nightmare for you, but was there any way for the limited number of personnel that were there to prevent individuals from rushing to the airport?”
BLINKEN: “No, they could control the airport as we did. They could establish a basic, immediate perimeter around the airport, as we did, but they couldn’t control what happened beyond that perimeter.”
MURPHY: “And so let’s talk about that perimeter. Others say, well, we should have controlled a bigger perimeter, we should have taken back over parts of Kabul to secure the passage of Americans and Afghans to the airport. I mean, let’s say you would quadruple the number of troops you had there. Let’s say you had 10,000 troops there. Without the Afghan military or a functioning government would that have been enough to retake Kabul to be able to secure the passage of everyone to the airport?”
BLINKEN: “I don’t want to profess to be a military expert, so I’d really defer to my colleagues at the Pentagon on that. But I can say that, I think safely say that it would have taken a substantial number of forces to try to retake the city or establish a much broader perimeter. And of course, if that was ultimately opposed by the Taliban, in a sense, it would have defeated the purpose because anyone outside that perimeter would not have been allowed to get through it to come to the airport, among other things.”
MURPHY: “Right, so once the Afghan military collapses, it disintegrates, we don’t have enough troops to retake Kabul and we are in the position of having to rely on the Taliban or at least communicate with the Taliban to make sure that we get individuals to the airport.”
BLINKEN: “That’s correct.”
MURPHY: “Okay. I just think this is important to put on the record in a clear and concise way. Because we have to have a reckoning in this country about what we can accomplish and what we can’t accomplish. It’s extraordinary that this administration got [124,000] people out of Afghanistan, given those circumstances, given the situation that they inherited, that you inherited in January of this year. And my worry, Mr. Chairman, is that the malady that we suffered for the last 20 years, this idea that it was just a bad plan. Right, it was the failure of execution as to why we couldn’t succeed in Iraq or Afghanistan, is plaguing us again today. That right now we’re having a conversation as if we just had a better plan, if we just executed better, we could have avoided these scenes at the airport. We could have guaranteed the easy and safe passage of everyone into that facility. It is heartbreaking what happened. It was impossible for Americans to watch. But if we just simply leave today, believing that if we had planned better, if we had better execution, we could have avoided this panic and confusion. I think we’re just inviting another Iraq, another Afghanistan in the future.
“Finally, Mr. Secretary, just quickly expand on your point about the message this sends to China. This idea that the Chinese would love it if we stayed another 10 or 20 years, and why this isn’t a sign of weakness. And in fact, this is an ability for you and the national security infrastructure to be able to reorient resources towards fights that we actually can win.”
BLINKEN: “Well, I think Senator, you put it very well. In my assessment, and the assessment of many others, as I said, there’s nothing that strategic competitors, like China, like Russia, or adversaries like Iran and North Korea, would like better than for us to have re upped the war, doubled down on it, and remained bogged down in Afghanistan for another year, five years, 10 years, 20 years with all of that dedication of resources, all of that energy, and focus on that as opposed to the challenges that we have to face today. And I might add, this committee has done I think a very good job on trying to refocus us on, notably the competition from China. So I think that would have been doubling down on this on this war, after 20 years, after nearly $2 trillion, after 2,461 American lives lost, 20,000 injuries, and not to preserve the status quo that existed before May 1, that would have been one thing. But to be in a situation where the war with us was restarted — the Taliban attacking our forces, attacking our partners and allies, going on and offensive across the country to retake the cities — that would have required a doubling down on a war. And the bottom line is this: We were right to end the war. We were right not to send a third generation of Americans to Afghanistan to fight and die there. And I believe we were right in the extraordinary efforts that were made to make sure we could bring out as many people as possible. And now we have an obligation to make sure that we continue to do that. And of course to guard against the re-emergence of any threats coming from Afghanistan.”