U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today called for Congress to conduct a thorough investigation into the Biden administration’s disastrous and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. With the nation having recently marked the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Thune reiterated that the service and sacrifice of those American troops who served in Afghanistan was not in vain. Thune also discussed the Democrats’ out-of-control spending in Washington, D.C., and the urgent need to prevent saddling future generations with burdensome debt.
On the Democrats’ out-of-control spending and debt (excerpt):
“There’s a way in which the reconciliation procedure can be used to raise the debt limit to pay for all the new spending that the Democrats have in this bill.
“So, when they get down here and talk about how important it is for this to be bipartisan, well, it would be one thing if there was actually any kind of a bipartisan negotiation going on, but there isn’t.
“The last time the debt limit was raised, there was in 2019 – and at that time it was about caps. It was about reducing spending – there was a bipartisan agreement to reduce spending as the debt limit was being increased.
“The other thing I would mention, Mr. President, in response to what the majority leader said earlier, is that the debt that was accumulated in the previous administration – much of which was done on a bipartisan basis in response to the biggest pandemic that this country has seen in 100 years. In March of 2020, $4.5 trillion of that debt was put on the bill because of a bipartisan agreement that was reached, as I said earlier, 96 to zero. Ninety-six to zero was the vote here in the United States Senate.
“So, Democrats want to go down this path. They want to spend, spend, spend like there’s no tomorrow; and tax, tax, tax like there’s no tomorrow; and borrow, borrow, borrow like there’s no tomorrow; then they ought to pay, pay, pay with their votes when it comes to raising the debt limit and unfortunately handing the bill for that to our kids and grandkids.”
On President Biden’s chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, 20 years ago, on a clear September morning, the unthinkable happened:
“An attack on our nation, here at home, on our own soil.
“Almost three thousand Americans died that day.
“And our nation reeled.
“But in the midst of grief and fear there was also hope.
“We saw evil on September 11, but in the days and weeks that followed we saw good as well.
“The first responders who raced to the scene and spent the weeks after combing through the rubble.
“The heroic Americans who fought back against the terrorists on Flight 93.
“The hours-long lines for blood donation, as Americans scrambled to do anything they could to help.
“And out of the ashes of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, came a new birth of patriotism and resolve.
“America might be bloodied, but she would not break.
“Evil and terror would not win.
“The 9/11 generation of warriors and intelligence personnel took the fight to the terrorists in the Middle East and around the world.
“Our men and women in uniform dismantled terrorist safe havens, disrupted terror groups, thwarted attacks, and hunted down and delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.
“And in Afghanistan, the downfall of the Taliban at the hands of our soldiers and our NATO allies allowed a generation of Afghans to grow up in freedom.
“I was honored to get to spend part of September 11 with members of the South Dakota Air National Guard, many of whom served overseas in the fight against terrorism.
“Mr. President, as we marked the 20th anniversary of September 11 on Saturday, our soldiers and our veterans should have been able to reflect on their successes in the fight against terrorism over the past two decades.
“But I know that today many of them are struggling with the recent events in Afghanistan.
“The United States’ disastrous, hasty withdrawal is a stain on our nation’s history and a betrayal of the men and women who fought there.
“But I hope they know that their sacrifices, and the sacrifices of their comrades, were not in vain.
“As I said, their actions enabled a generation of Afghans to grow up free from the oppressive hand of the Taliban and kept the country from being a haven for al-Qaeda and other terrorists.
“And despite the current grim situation in Afghanistan, I am convinced that the seeds of freedom sown by our military men and women will yet bear fruit on Afghan soil.
“Mr. President, I – and many others – warned that a total troop withdrawal in Afghanistan that ignored conditions on the ground was going to be a strategic disaster.
“And it has been.
“The United States has historically maintained a limited military presence in foreign countries when it is in our national security interest.
“And with a presence of just 2,500 to 3,000 troops, we were maintaining stability for a country that was fighting to find its way toward freedom and democracy, and simultaneously protecting the interests of our own country.
“All of that, of course, is now at an end.
“President Biden’s disastrous decision to completely withdraw U.S. troops – on a timeline he announced to our enemies – allowed the Taliban to bide their time until our ultimate departure.
“American citizens are still trapped in Afghanistan, and thousands of Afghans who worked with U.S. troops and U.S. intelligence are in grave danger.
“And Afghanistan is well on its way to once again becoming a terrorist haven.
“In fact, the Taliban has already appointed terrorists to top posts in its new government.
“There is also every reason to fear that government oppression will once again become the norm in Afghanistan, particularly for women and girls.
“Mr. President, we heard over and over again that President Biden was going to restore America’s standing in the world and repair our relationships with our allies – particularly our NATO allies.
“In fact, he’s done the opposite.
“His Afghanistan disaster is a national embarrassment.
“He failed our troops, he failed the American people, he failed our allies, and he failed the Afghans who risked their lives with and for us.
“The parliament of a key U.S. ally, the United Kingdom, condemned President Biden in the strongest terms for his dishonorable withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“The fact that we have left behind thousands of Afghans who worked with our country and whom we promised to protect is unconscionable.
“It is a stain on our country’s record that will not be easily wiped away.
“And I hope – I really hope – that the president does everything within his power to get Afghans who worked with us, and any remaining U.S. citizens, out of the country as soon as humanly possible.
“In the coming weeks, the relevant committees in the House and Senate need to conduct thorough oversight and investigations to understand why this withdrawal was done in a manner that further empowered and strengthened the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies.
“We also need to discover why there was no effective plan to get our citizens and our Afghan allies to safety.
“The scenes of chaos at Hamid Karzai airport should never have happened.
“And we need to find out why they did.
“Thirteen brave Americans died protecting our withdrawal – 11 Marines, one soldier, and one sailor.
“And it’s hard not to wonder if their deaths could have been avoided had there been a better plan in place for the evacuation.
“The families of these men and women, and the American people, deserve answers.
“And the Biden administration must provide them.
“Mr. President, the weeks of August 2021 will live in infamy.
“The president’s ill-considered, untimely withdrawal and complete lack of an effective plan to evacuate Americans and our Afghan allies created a humanitarian crisis and the conditions that allowed the Taliban to swiftly take over the country.
“The president’s actions have helped condemn women and girls and the entire Afghan people to once again live under pre-9/11 oppression.
“And he has emboldened terrorists and increased the security risk facing our nation.
“It is tragic that all the good we have done in Afghanistan has come to this.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”