Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL), Lead Republican of the House Armed Services Committee, delivered the following opening statement at a hearing on the Afghanistan withdrawal. Watch the hearing live here.
Lead Republican Rogers' remarks as prepared for delivery:
Regardless of how you feel about the decision to remove troops from Afghanistan, I think we can all agree that the withdrawal was an unmitigated disaster:
- Hundreds of Americans left behind.
- Thousands of Afghan allies stuck with little hope of escape.
- Potentially billions worth of U.S provided military equipment now in the hands of the Taliban.
- Thousands of hardened Al Qaeda and ISIS terrorists freed from prisons.
- 10 innocent Afghans, including 7 children killed in a botched air strike.
- But worst of all, 13 of our bravest servicemembers were murdered by a coward in a suicide vest.
What is most infuriating, is that all this could have been avoided if the President had a plan.
In briefings and hearings since April we have demanded to know the plan to -
- safely evacuate Americans and Afghan allies; and
- conduct counter terrorism operations.
For four months, the response from Biden Administration officials was: “we’re working on it”.
It’s now very clear that they never had a plan.
The President repeatedly assured the American people –
- that the Taliban takeover was not inevitable;
- that we had plenty of time to safely evacuate Americans and Afghan allies;
- that this was not going to be like the Fall of Saigon.
As late as August 19th, the President promised us that “if there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay to get them all out”.
It’s now clear the President misled us.
On August 31st, with hundreds of Americans left behind and 13 servicemembers murdered, the President stood in the East Room of the White House and called the withdrawal an “extraordinary success”.
I fear the President may be delusional.
This wasn’t an extraordinary success; it was an extraordinary disaster.
It will go down in history as one of the greatest failures of American leadership.
We’re here today to get answers on how the hell this happened.
I expect our witnesses to give us an honest accounting of exactly what went wrong.
I also want answers on how we’re going to conduct counter terrorism operations now that we have zero presence in Afghanistan.
This was the first question we asked you in April, and we still don’t have an answer.
According to the latest intelligence assessment, it could be as little as 12 months before Al Qaeda will use Afghanistan as a base to conduct strikes in the United States.
And this talk of over-the-horizon capability is a farce.
Sure, we can send a drone to take out a terrorist.
But we need to know where the terrorist is.
Without persistent ISR capabilities or reliable intelligence on the ground, that’s impossible.
We have neither of those now.
It doesn’t help that we need to fly that drone nearly 1,600 miles to reach Afghanistan, leaving little time on station.
Or that we have to fly it over Pakistan, an ally of the Taliban, who could revoke overflight rights at any time.
None of this is giving us much confidence that this administration can successfully conduct counter terrorism in Afghanistan.
We want to know what capabilities we need, where they’ll be based, and how they’ll be used.
In other words, we want to see the plan and we want to see it today.
Because frankly, after this debacle of a withdrawal, I don’t think anyone can trust what this President says about Afghanistan.