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Sen. McConnell addresses Afghanistan, COVID

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Posted at 5:48 PM, Aug 16, 2021

JEFFERSONTOWN, Ky. (LEX 18) — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday was a "sad day for the United States of America" as the Taliban once again held control of Afghanistan's capital.

"I think Afghanistan is lost," said McConnell. "Every terrorist around the world is cheering."

McConnell addressed the situation in Afghanistan after he attended a business roundtable discussion in Jeffersontown.

He called the withdrawal of US troops an "unmitigated disaster."

"Even though we have been there a long time, I do not accept the notion that this has been an endless war," said McConnell. "For example, over the last year, we didn't lose a single American military personnel in combat. Not one. Why were we still there? To keep the lid on, so that this relatively stable situation would not become a haven for terrorists once again."

McConnell said it's important to remember that America went into Afghanistan to protect American interests - to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States.

"Afghanistan was a haven for al-Qaeda. al-Qaeda was the organization that attacked us on 9/11. We didn't go into Afghanistan to build a modern Jeffersonian democracy. We went there because it was in our own interest to try to prevent terrorism," said McConnell.

The longtime senator said that he has opposed the complete removal of American troops under several presidents, including President Donald Trump, who initiated plans for a full American withdrawal.

"I argued against it with Trump, too," he said. "I made the same argument to President Trump. And simply the fact that President Trump announced we were going to leave in May [2021] didn't mean President Biden had to do that."

McConnell said he supported a continued American presence in Afghanistan because it served America's interests. However, he says the focus now must be to get Americans, allies, and many Afghans out of the country.

"If you insisted on leaving, at least you should've had adequate concern not only for the Americans who were still in Afghanistan but the Afghans who cooperated with us. The interpreters, people who were part of the government, the people who were on our side through these 20 years," said McConnell. "And now we see these heartbreaking pictures of people clinging to airplanes as they try to escape from the airport in Kabul."

When asked how long America should have kept troops in Afghanistan, he didn't give a specific timeframe.

"We've been in Germany, Japan, and South Korea for over half a century," said McConnell. "I don't know the answer to that. But what I can tell you is: It was not a haven for al-Qaeda. Not a single American military personnel got killed in the last year. It was a relatively benign way to keep the lid on, to avoid exactly what we're seeing."