Republicans Cheney, Sasse Blame Trump and Biden for Removing Troops, 'The Backbone of Intelligence'

By Susan Jones | August 16, 2021 | 7:44am EDT
US soldiers take up their positions around the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. (Photo by SHAKIB RAHMANI/AFP via Getty Images)
US soldiers take up their positions around the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. (Photo by SHAKIB RAHMANI/AFP via Getty Images)

( - Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate intelligence committee, issued a statement on Sunday saying that both Donald Trump and Joe Biden "deliberately decided to lose" the 20-year war in Afghanistan.

“The unmitigated disaster in Afghanistan — the shameful, Saigon-like abandonment of Kabul, the brutalization of Afghan women, and the slaughter of our allies — is the predictable outcome of the Trump-Biden doctrine of weakness," Sasse wrote:

History must be clear about this: American troops didn’t lose this war — Donald Trump and Joe Biden deliberately decided to lose.

Politicians lied: America’s options were never simply this disgraceful withdrawal or an endless occupation force of 100,000 troops (we haven’t had that in Afghanistan in a decade). America’s leaders didn’t tell the truth that our small, forward-deployed force of a few thousand was the backbone of intelligence and special forces’ successful work to decapitate terror organizations.

The looming defeat will badly hurt American intelligence and give jihadis a safe haven in Afghanistan, again. America will regret this. Our allies will trust us less and our adversaries fear us less. China is already exploiting this latest instance of American retreat. We need a long-term national security strategy.

(In a second statement issued on Monday, Sasse slammed President Biden for hiding out: “While Afghanistan falls to jihadi militants, our Afghan allies are on the verge of slaughter, and America gets humiliated, President Biden hides out at Camp David. It’s unacceptable. The mission at this point ought to be simple: bolster American troops and firepower until we can get flights running around the clock. The Taliban must not dictate when every last American, our courageous Afghan partners, and their families are off the tarmac.”)

‘This is not ending the war’

Likewise, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), also a vocal Trump critic, told ABC's "This Week" that the Trump administration bears "very significant responsibility."

Look, I think 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 watch, 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 the terrorist groups globally will in fact be fed new soldiers in their war on terror from those prisons.

This is -- it's a devastating set of circumstances but the de-legitimization 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 --

["On September 11th," host Jonathan Karl injected.]

"Yes," Cheney continued. "I mean, they -- this disaster certainly began -- and, look, the notion of we're going to end endless war, that campaign slogan, what we're watching right now in Afghanistan is what happens when America withdraws from the world.

"So everybody who has been saying, 'America needs to withdraw. America needs to retreat,' we are getting a devastating, catastrophic real-time lesson in what that means."

Cheney said the unfolding catastrophe "did not have to happen."

And 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.

Cheney said it wouldn't have taken much to maintain the "status quo, 2,500 to 3,500 forces on the ground, conducting counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence operations."

Removing all troops, a process Trump initiated and Biden continued, does not end the war, Cheney said:

"This is not ending the war. What this is doing actually is perpetuating it," she said:

What we have done and what we're seeing in Afghanistan is, instead of keeping 2,500 forces on the ground, which 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 to 3,500 troops on the ground.

What we're seeing now is actually the opposite of ending war. What we're seeing now is a policy that will ensure -- ensure, that we will in fact have to have our children and our grandchildren continuing to fight this war at much higher costs.

So everybody -- the Rand Paul, Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Joe Biden view of the world here is fundamentally dangerous and irresponsible and wrong.

Even if the American people agree it's time to end the war and bring the troops home, leaders "have an obligation" to tell people the truth, Cheney said:

"And 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 the deployment of forces on the ground,” Cheney said.

"This has been an epic failure across the board, one we're going to pay for, for years to come."

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