Republican Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger Comments On Afghanistan
TAMARA KEITH, HOST:
And we're joined now by Adam Kinzinger. He's a Republican who represents Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives. And he joins us now. Congressman, thanks so much for being with us.
ADAM KINZINGER: Thanks for having me.
KEITH: And you're also a member of the Air National Guard, right?
KINZINGER: Yeah, that's right.
KEITH: Yeah. So what is your assessment of how things have unraveled in Afghanistan and so quickly. Was this outcome avoidable?
KINZINGER: Yeah, it was totally avoidable. This is - it's heartbreaking for me personally. It's infuriating because what we're seeing right now - I mean, let's think about this. We have 5,000 troops. We're surging into Afghanistan to try to save our embassy or at least evacuate our embassy. We only had 2,500 troops there that was working with the Afghan military, where the Afghan military was committing 98% of combat exercise. And we haven't lost a combat death since February of 2020 in Afghanistan. Yet, both under President Trump and now President Biden, they couldn't have rushed any more for the exits. And what we're seeing, the brutalization of women that's occurring - every women's rights advocate which are out rightfully fighting for women's rights in the United States should be fighting hard for women's rights in Afghanistan. I'm - I mean, hopefully, you can hear it in my voice. I'm trying to keep myself calm, but I am beyond angry.
KEITH: You know, the U.S. allocated billions of dollars to train Afghan forces and police. They trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police. So - and then they just sort of melted away in the last several weeks, including today. What do you think happened?
KINZINGER: Well, I think, you know, if I'm fighting on the ground as an American soldier and, let's say, all of a sudden the Air Force and Navy said, hey, guys, we're heading out. We're not going to support you on the ground. We're gone - I would have a hard time seeing myself staying on the trenches fighting. You know, and then that's the point - is every - even when Americans engage in combat, the thing they do is typically hold off, allow the air support to come in, use air superiority to crush the enemy. But when all of a sudden, you hear that you're strongest and most important ally is abandoning you because, quote, unquote, "the war can't be won," well, if you're an Afghan military soldier, you're going to sit here and think, maybe I'm just going to go back and be with my family. And when you start to see desertions, that's what happens. I mean, look. The Afghan military, of course, had a long ways to go, but they were carrying the brunt of the combat operations. But again, under President Trump and now President Biden, they just - they rushed for the exit. And they thought it would be a political win. And it's going to be a huge disaster for both.
KEITH: Yeah, I want to run something by you. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on CNN's "State Of The Union" this morning. He was pressed about the scene in Kabul, the scramble to evacuate Americans. He says, quote, "This is not Saigon. We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission, and that mission was to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11. And we succeeded in that mission." I want to get your response to that.
KINZINGER: I mean, as you know, the prior reporter you were talking to mentioned, I mean, right now, the people that attacked us on 9/11 or harbored those people that attacked us on 9/11 are right now negotiating for the total capitulation of the Afghan government, so they can run Afghanistan. I mean, it's - it was a preventable disaster. All it took was 2,500 American troops. And now we have double that in Afghanistan to evacuate our embassy. It's a sad moment. And I - my heart breaks for America and particularly for the women and the people of Afghanistan.
KEITH: How concerned are you that Afghanistan could once again become a haven for terrorists?
KINZINGER: I'm extremely concerned. And keep in mind, you know, our presence of 2,500 in Afghanistan was mostly focused on being able to counter ISIS, to counter resurgent al-Qaida in the region. And that was a problem then. Now we have no ability to keep an eye on it. I think it's quite possible that we end up in Afghanistan someday again because, frankly, it's going to compel us when you see a resurgent al-Qaida, you know, et cetera. It's going to be a disaster. And again, I wish I was living in an alternate reality right now. But unfortunately, this is happening.
KEITH: This is the reality of the moment. Representative Adam Kinzinger. Thank you so much for joining us, Congressman.
KINZINGER: You bet. Thank you.
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