McConnell Says U.S. Afghan Withdrawal Means Return of Taliban

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan will likely lead to the Taliban’s return to power as soon as this year.

“I think there is a high likelihood that the Taliban will be back in control of the country, maybe as early as the end of the year,” McConnell said in response to a question at a news conference in home state of Kentucky. “And I worry about the future of Afghan women and girls, and that we will end up in a situation much like we found ourselves in before.”

The withdrawal from Afghanistan is exposing yet another divide in the GOP, with former President Donald Trump and his supporters demanding a retreat from “endless wars,” while more traditional Republicans, including McConnell and Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, support a continued U.S. presence. Trump, in his sustained campaign to oust Cheney from Republican House leadership, twice this week called her a “warmonger.”

McConnell Says U.S. Afghan Withdrawal Means Return of Taliban

“I know we’ve been there a long time but I do not think you can call this an endless war. We have not been in raging combat the entire period,” McConnell said. “I think it’s important to remember why we went there.”

McConnell, who has criticized efforts by multiple presidents to withdraw from the country, cited warnings made in recent days by former secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice.

“It’s not just me saying that,” he said. “I think the president has made a mistake.”

Clinton said Sunday on CNN that Biden’s decision would have “huge” consequences, including the potential for a takeover by the Taliban “in the not-too-distant future,” the potential for a resurgence of terror groups like Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and a flood of refugees, including people who have worked with the U.S. in the past two decades.

McConnell on Thursday noted that American forces went a year without a combat death in Afghanistan.

Biden has set a Sept. 11 deadline for complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan after 20 years.

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