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tv   Sen. Graham on Presidents Afghanistan Strategy  CSPAN  April 14, 2021 3:36pm-4:13pm EDT

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team have done a lot of interesting writing about this. essentially, the president is under pressure to unilaterally cancel student debt via executive order. he's getting a little bit of pressure from top congressional democrats to do that. the white house is taking a more measured approach, where they don't seem to be completely comfortable with doing that. apparently, from what i've read, they want the justice department to look into the president's authority to do some of that. but there are a lot of progressive democrats and top democrats who feel like the president can just step out right now and cancel student debt. but the white house has been a little bit more cautious on that front. >> rory in california is with us. good morning. >> caller: yes.
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my name is rory. two things. one, there is federal money being stolen from the stimulus in california. they had a $16 billion deal. >> okay. i got to get in better shape running up the stairs here. i miss john mccain a lot. but probably no more than today, because if john were with us, i'd be speaking second. and he would be telling you a story about how unwise this decision is. to withdraw all of our forces from afghanistan so you can say
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on september, 9/11 of 2021, we're out. the conditions on the ground, and the military advice runs counter to that decision. but the one thing i want to say is that president biden, i respect him. but i completely disagree. i've tried to work with presidents of both parties when it comes to the war on terror. i stood up to president trump when he announced our unilateral withdrawal from syria. and to his credit, he listened and adjusted his policies. i've been pushing the trump administration, if you want to do a deal with the taliban, make sure the conditions are met before the end game. they have been trying to drive us out for years, they do not
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have our best interests at heart. on march 22nd, jake sullivan called me. i like jake. i think he's smart. i appreciate the phone call. i want the american people to know, when it comes to afghanistan, there are no great options. this is a place that is complicated and dangerous. without a lot of great options. but the options are high risk, medium risk, and low risk to the american homeland. president biden unfortunately has chosen the highest risk option available. which is to leave no matter what. i am certain that our military advised against a unilateral withdrawal without conditions being met to protect the american homeland. and our way of life from a future attack. emanating from afghanistan. this september will be 20 years since afghanistan was used as a
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launching pad to attack america to kill almost 3,000 of us. the reason they killed 3,000 of us almost is they couldn't find a better way to kill more of us. does anybody doubt that if al qaeda or isis had nuclear capability, they would use it? so what have we learned in the last 20 years? when we allow sanctuary for radical islamic groups to train, equip, and get stronger, they come after us. they come after our way of life, and our allies. on march 22nd, i talked with mr. sullivan, and i said i know it is complicated, and there are no great choices. but count me in for the idea, we will not withdraw all forces in afghanistan until the conditions are ripe to tell the american people we left honorably and america is safer.
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i told mr. sullivan that i would support president biden's decision to accept military advice to keep a residual force of several thousand as an insurance policy against another 9/11. the result of this decision today by president biden is to cancel an insurance policy that in my view would prevent another 9/11. i believe with all my heart and soul after 50-something trips to the region, a few thousand americans watching over there would make it harder for al qaeda and isis to hit us over here. i don't trust the taliban to look at american interests. but we're in a very precarious situation. there are no great outcomes, but this is the worst possible outcome, to pull up and leave, and hope things will turn out well. that did not happen in iraq, and
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it did not happen here. but i want to let the american people know, i felt it was incumbent upon me to tell president biden that i will be with you if you accept sound military advice. even though some in my party will not. i felt it was incumbent upon me to stand up to trump decisions that i thought would make us less safe, and work with president trump. i'm glad to say that president trump listened, and adjusted his policies. i want to end the war in afghanistan as much as anybody. i think i've seen afghanistan up close and personal, and i understand the sacrifice america has made. the thousands that have died, and tens of thousands that have been injured and the money spent. but i understand what the afghanistan people have been through. women threatened every day, what
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it's like to take on some of the most radical forces in your own faith, to risk your family to change your country. i'm heartbroken that president biden for political reasons took the high risk strategy. i felt it incumbent upon me to support him if he went another way. now, i feel it's incumbent upon me to point out the perils that await us. everything i'm about to tell you, i hope i'm dead wrong. i hope it works out. if he doesn't change his mind, and i beg you, president biden, re-evaluate this, don't lock yourself in, because things will change quickly in afghanistan for the worse. al qaeda and isis are going to benefit very quickly from this decision. so i feel like i need to tell the american people why it is in our interest to keep a few thousand troops over there until
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conditions are ripe. i believe if we leave afghanistan under the path charted by president biden, the government will deteriorate rapidly, people will go back to their corners, the taliban will grow in the south, and the government will find it difficult to manage. and a terrorist organization will reign in the east. the northern alliance will reconstitute and form militias in the west. and i think the iranians will have a major influence. what do we lose by pulling out? we lose that insurance policy against another 9/11. we lose listening posts in the backyard of some of the most radical movements in the world. afghanistan has been a platform where we can monitor what is
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going on in iran and other places. we lose all of that. what do we gain? we gain the idea that the war is now over. and joe biden ended the longest war in american history. with all due respect to president biden, you've not ended the war, you've extended it. made it bigger, not smaller. you're going to do to us what you did in iraq, put us in a world of hurt. what did john mccain and lindsey graham say about iraq? general austin, now secretary of defense, advised vice president biden and president obama to leave a residual force somewhere around 20,000. i know that was true. vice president biden argued for zero, it went to zero, and the rest is history. isis formed. if you've ever been around the people, you know how dangerous that was.
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the rape and destruction of the women is something i have a hard time dealing with, knowing it could have been avoided. this is an unforced error. so it's just not me saying this. congress asked the afghan study group to be formed. it was led by general dunford, a general in afghanistan. former senator joe donnelly and others, they spent a long time looking at what should we do, knowing they would be advising the new president, whether it be trump, biden, or anyone else. here's the bottom line. this is a bipartisan group, spending a lot of time looking at the options available to us
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in afghanistan. according to experts who brief this study group, a precipitous withdrawal could lead to a reconstitution of the terrorist threat to the u.s. homeland within 18 months to 3 years. they're telling, and they briefed secretary blinken, i know, what would happen. so i hope they're wrong. but i think they're right. and i know that our military believed that the taliban were not complying to the point we could pull our forces without risking a threat to the homeland. what else do i know? congress has been unusually bipartisan on this. a resolution offered by senator mcconnell urging the trump administration not to withdraw all forces from afghanistan as it could lead to a threat to our
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homeland unless conditions were met on the ground and urged them to certify that any withdrawal did not expose the homeland to danger. that was 72 votes. that was a resolution urging the trump administration, don't pull out of the place unless the conditions warrant. we went further. in 2021 omnibus appropriation bill, one provision says, until september 2021, the secretary of state will issue a report detailing the activities of the taliban. that has never been done. congress put in the appropriations bill a periodic
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report on progress regarding an agreement with the taliban, whether or not they're complying. i'm calling on secretary blinken to submit your report. it's a part of our law. it's not advisory. no administration is above the law. i put this into law not knowing who will be president, this concept. it goes further. it says that a joint certification by the secretary of state and secretary of defense, that such an agreement or arrangement or amendment will further the setting of conditions to the long term defeat of al qaeda or isis and will not make the united states more vulnerable to terrorist attacks originating from afghanistan or from terrorist elements in afghanistan. that has not been compied with,
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i'm calling for the secretaries to comply with this. whether you agree with biden or not, congress has a role in foreign policy. this is part of the appropriations provision's past. it's think it is important that the biden administration comply with it. i think it would be important for any administration to comply with this, because it shows that the congress is uniquely interested in what happens to our nation if we leave afghanistan under the wrong conditions. and this started in the trump administration, it was incredibly bipartisan, and it is a provision in the law that has not been complied with so i am urging the secretary of state and defense to comply with the law as written by congress to give us the certifications if you can and if you can't, tell us and i think it would be a good thing to revisit this issue. this is not an advisory piece of legislation, this is the law of
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the land. and i hope and pray that they will abide by it, and here's what i tell my colleagues, you may agree with president biden, but no president should be able to ignore laws written by congress that give us the information we need as to what we should do later. so the bottom line is obey the law. the afghan study group is an independent group, bipartisan, that warned against a withdrawal that was not conditions-based. and what i heard today from president biden is we're withdrawing because it has been too long. withdrawing because america is tired. i can tell america you might be tired of fighting radical islam, they are not tired of fighting you. what happened in iraq will happen in afghanistan, but it will be worse. the south will deteriorate quickly, and everybody will go back to their camps and al qaeda
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and iraq -- al qaeda and isis will reform and have safe havens. you can't trust the taliban to look after our interests and that's what we find ourselves. so, what to do next? president biden says we will support peace talks between the government of afghanistan and the taliban, facilitated by the united nations. we went to afghanistan because of a horrific attack that happened 20 years ago. that cannot explain why we should remain there in 2021. mr. president, the best people to explain to you why we should stay in afghanistan with a residual counterterrorism force or your own military and intelligence community and people like the afghan study group, they have told you point blank the high risk nature of a
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decision to withdraw because we're tired of being there. because you want to tell the public 20 years later i got us out of afghanistan. if you will listen to the military, and intelligence community they can explain to you why we need a residual force to protect the american homeland because the afghan study group indicated that if we do this the wrong way, within 18 months to years, there will be threats to our homeland. and all i can say is that, mr. president, that's not a fair summary. you had sound advice, you ignored it. this is on you. this is not on the military. this is on you. you're doing in afghanistan what you did in iraq. i went with senator mccain to sit down with president obama, to tell him if you will stay the course, and have a residual force in iraq, we will back you up. they decided to go to zero.
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the rest is history. but afghanistan is worse than iraq. this is where the war started. and every terrorist camp in the world is on steroids today. because in their world, they beat us. in their world, they drove us out. and it is so sad to the women of afghanistan, i pray for you. you're in my thoughts. to the women of america, the people who will do what they're doing to their own women, they would hurt us all. and in their world there is no room but for one faith on the planet. they would destroy the state of israel if they could. they would attack us unrelenting. they have no sense of compassion. they're religious nazis and we have abandoned the construct that has worked to replace it with a construct that is unsound and has not worked every time we have done it. unilateral withdrawal without conditions being met results in we know what. iraq, syria, and now again in
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afghanistan. okay. while we will not stay involved in afghanistan militarily, our diplomatic and humanitarian work will continue. to president biden, it is impossible under the construct you have created for our diplomatic core to work safely in afghanistan. without some military presence, our cia, who is on the front lines of defending america, cannot stay in afghanistan. it is folly to assume that the security environment deteriorating, which it surely will, will allow us to meet our goals of diplomatic and humanitarian work. i think a lot of democrats are going to be with me, that if we pull that out of afghanistan, and the security environment deteriorates, we cannot waste taxpayer dollars. what good is it sending aid to a country where you can't deliver the aid?
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this is a disconnect between reality. were we able to work in mosul after isis took over? were we able to help the people of iraq when the country was being consumed by isis elements? no. this construct is fantasy. we will not be able to engage in diplomatic or humanitarian work unless the security environment would allow us to do so. so i have been at this a long time, i know people are frustrated by the length of the war, the money we spent, the lives we lost, and all i would say is never forget the enemy. it takes two to end the war, folks. they're not close to quitting. the taliban are different than al qaeda and isis. i don't believe they will attack us here at home.
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but i believe they will allow al qaeda and isis to roam freely and afghanistan they don't have the will or the capability to police them. and i think this is a high risk strategy. and i pray that i'm wrong. but i know what happened in iraq. the slaughter in paris, hundreds of people killed here at home because of radicals inspired by their success over there. here's what i can tell you. that isis or al qaeda will never conquer america. but they can make our lives miserable. they can radicalize people in our backyard, to do a lot of damage to us. if ever got the ability to use a weapon of mass destruction against america, they would use it. the best way to prevent that is to keep your foot on their throat over there, so they can't hurt us here. what have i learned? when they're doing well, the terrorists over there, people want to come to their cause. when they're defeated, and deflated and on their back,
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we're safer. i fear that the radicalization on the internet is going to start anew. that they're going to take credit for driving america out. and that we're going to have holy hell in our backyard, that afghanistan is going to disintegrate, that iran is going to be one of the biggest winners, that our friends in pakistan have a massive problem on their hand, if the russians and chinese are going to fill the void created by this mistake. and what breaks my heart is that unforced error. i started with the idea there are no good choices, but there are high risk, medium and low risk choices. we have chosen the highest risk strategy and i don't know why after iraq. two kicks of a mule don't do you any good. i can tell you from the people i've been working with in afghanistan, in the military, they're worried. this is not going to end well for us. i've told president trump that,
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that if you leave syria, the kurds who helped us defeat isis will be slaughtered by turkey and isis will come back. and that will undercut the narrative you created that you destroyed them. president biden, i am willing to work with you, if you want to reconsider this strategy. now or in the future. my friend, i am here to help you because this is not about you, it is not about me, it is about america. and here's the saddest of all news. as difficult as afghanistan has been, and will be, things have changed. i went over right after the fall of the taliban, today there are over 6 million women who have been educated. kabul is a very commerce-driven area. people can sing and dance and live their lives without the oppression that the taliban brought on them. that to the american people, that any force that will kill
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women for sport in a soccer stadium, and blow up religious statutes of others is a threat to our way of life. the taliban are not accepted in their own country. they have marginal support. they have used force of arms, intimidation, with their rejected by the afghan people, who could be and will be great allies of the united states. they have seen a different life. and it breaks my heart that we're going to go backward, not forward. a few thousand americans would protect our homeland, and give the edge to the afghan military against any enemy that would come over there. they would be able to deny al qaeda and isis safe haven, which means that another 9/11 is far less likely. so we're months away from 20 years of that fateful day that i'll never forget. walking over that night to the
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capitol, i made a promise to myself that i will do everything in my power to make sure this never happens to america again. i've tried to keep that promise by staying involved, going over there with senator mccain, listening and learning, and the good news is we're down to where a few thousand americans can do the job to keep america safe and hold the place together and we have blown it right here toward the end. take any questions you got. >> senator, do you think -- is there anything else you can do beyond demanding this sort of patience you were mentioning or -- >> i would -- in case the biden administration is listening, it would be great to get the taliban to the peace table and end the war. honorably, for the women of afghanistan and safe for us. i just don't see how you can do that until they comply with the conditions of rejecting al qaeda
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and isis. they haven't. over 3500 i think afghan security forces have been killed during the negotiations. i think the taliban have elements that want to move on. they want to be part of the country, i think they given up taking it over. there are some pretty hard core folks. so what i would advise the biden administration as you continue to work with the u.n. and others to end the war, that you reinforce to the taliban that their conditions that matter to us, that an international peacekeeping force will be present. because the world is at risk here. look what happened in the opera house or the movie theater, i can't remember, i think the music hall in paris? that came because we left iraq. they formed safe haven in syria, and they came after the french people. so i would like the world to know, our nato allies, that you're at risk as much as we
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are. here's what's so sad, i've been called by three major allies in the last month urging me to urge president biden to stay the course, because they would. there is no desire by nato to leave. we're talking about -- we're up to 140,000 at one time, i think. now down to less than five. so i'm hoping they will look at the conditions of the agreement, taliban or not meeting them, and when they realize they're not impose the conditions on the taliban and put back on the ground an international force to make sure afghanistan doesn't fall apart. >> you mentioned you're certain of the military. i was wondering if maybe you can talk about how you're certain of that and -- [ inaudible ] >> i'm saying they'll salute smartly when the president makes a decision. i know there was a big discussion and president biden
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listened intently. i know where the military has been on this. i know what they were telling president trump. that until the taliban become a more reliable partner, until they renounced terrorism, al qaeda and isis, until they stop trying to undermine, you know, the peace process, that we cannot leave. and i am certain that secretary pompeo put these conditions in. and nobody is certified they have been met. so that's the whole point here. yeah, i'm confident that the low risk strategy was to have a residual counterterrorism force until the peace deal actually became a deal and was being implemented and was working. and but i'm sure the military will do whatever they're told by president biden. he has the authority as commander in chief to do this. i don't question that. he has an obligation under our law to inform congress of the risk and to make certifications. we have the right to ask that of any administration, i was going
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to ask it of the trump administration. i want you to know this is an unforced error from my point of view. this was not the preferred route. this was not the preferred route for president trump. and we're when president trump said a hard dateline of may 1st, it wasn't -- >> do you think another 9/11-like incident is more likely as a result of this? >> that's what they say. the afghan study group. i talked to commanders in afghanistan. what is their big nightmare? that the safe haven and sanctuaries that have been denied because we have counterterrorism forces to whack them will be gone and they will begin to reconstitute along the border of pakistan and afghanistan and the desire to hit the homeland is the greatest it has ever been and over time, its conditions in afghanistan deteriorate, the likelihood of being able to project force
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outside of afghanistan goes up. we saw that in iraq and syria, when they can plan and prepare and train they deploy their forces outside the region. >> you said you think there aren't the right conditions to leave right now. and so i'm wondering are you willing, are you okay with keeping troops in afghanistan indefinitely until the conditions are ripe? >> i think that's not the question, if you leave what do you leave behind. we have troops in japan. we have troops in germany. if the taliban bail out and don't keep their word, which i think they won't, they'll start attacking the forces we have. so there is no great options here. so if you leave say 4,000, 5,000 people, they'll be a nonpermissive environment and we'll have to go after the
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taliban. that's better than leaving the country where the enemy can reconstitute and hit us in multiple places and including america. so that's why you don't have great choices. but the least risky choice is to keep america military personnel with the intelligence community involved in afghanistan until there is a genuine reconciliation. until the taliban and the afghan people can find a way to move forward together. it is not democracy i'm pushing under this concept. it is making sure that the country doesn't become the safe haven it was 20 years ago. and what we're doing, according to the people i've talked to, is setting the conditions for afghanistan to go backward, not forward. for the last 20 years, it really hasn't been used as a safe haven to attack america. because we had forces over there to prevent that. so i would tell the american people, listen to your military.
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put the afghans out into the fight. they're dying by the thousands, compared to us. reduce your aid until they do better. but never lose sight that afghanistan is about us. and on september 11th, 2021, we'll all remember that day that are old enough to remember it, and here's what i want to remind you of, afghanistan is still about us, 20 years later. so i wanted to close with this. this is what they're capable of doing when we ignore the threat of the enemy. remember the famous statements being made that the warning lights are blinking red? as we ignored the buildup of al qaeda and afghanistan, this is what happened. this is what happened. flight 93, where americans on
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that flight were the first to fight back, what makes you think this won't happen again? if we create the conditions for it to happen again? what is it worth to americans to make sure this never happens again? is it worth it to us as a nation to keep the fight over there so it doesn't come here? the risk that our soldiers take is to protect their homeland. president biden went to arlington today and i'm glad he did. i've got some friends there. from iraq and afghanistan. this has been a very long war. the bottom line is they died in defense of their nation. not in some endless war. they died to make sure this never happens again. and i can assure you the likelihood of this and this happening again is going through the roof after president biden's decision today, if it is not changed. he's setting afghanistan on a path to deteriorate rather quickly, and for the enemy,
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radical islam, to reconstitute, and it can all be avoided with a minimal commitment compared to the past. and i'm expecting the certifications owed to the congress to be delivered. one final warning about that, if you do not comply with the law as written, it wasn't written for a democrat or a republican, it was written for the congress as a whole, then the senate will be a very difficult place to do business. i feel like i owe it to all those who have died to fight as hard as i can to make sure they have not died in vain. and more importantly, equally importantly, to make sure that americans do not die senselessly. soldiers take on the risk. they know why they're there. these people were defenseless. let's keep the fight over there. let's keep it in their backyard, not ours. and i can tell you, afghanistan has changed. the people of afghanistan have
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seen a better way of life. and i know it has been long, i know it has been hard, but pulling the plug now is going to take us backward, not forward. and the good news is we can deal with a few thousand troops what it took 100,000 to do, that the afghan people are more capable and they died by the thousands and i just think it is in our interest to see this thing through. until we can have an honorable and secure end to this war. thank you. c-span is your unfiltered view of government, created by america's cable television companies.
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