WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today spoke on the Senate floor about how President Biden’s “chaotic exit from Afghanistan has made it much harder for the U.S. military to keep the American people safe from terrorists.” In particular, Sen. Fischer outlined key flaws in the administration’s proposed counterterrorism strategy in Afghanistan.
Click the image above to watch video of Sen. Fischer’s floor speech
A copy of Sen. Fischer’s remarks as prepared for delivery is below:
“M. President, on August 16, as everything was collapsing in Afghanistan, President Biden said, ‘We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed.’
He was stating that we don’t need to have an on-the-ground presence in Afghanistan to keep Americans safe, and that we can rely instead on “over-the-horizon” strikes, where we use drones and other assets to take out terrorists from hundreds or even thousands of miles away.
Since then, we’ve learned that the president wasn’t being truthful.
At the Senate Armed Services Committee’s open hearing on the Afghanistan disaster, CENTCOM Commander General Kenneth McKenzie testified on the immense challenges we face in preventing terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS from using Afghanistan as a launching pad to attack us here at home.
What President Biden seems to conveniently ignore is that a successful over-the-horizon counterterrorism strategy requires more than just the ability to hit targets across long distances.
We also have to be able to identify targets, we have to be able to locate targets, and we have to be able to reach those targets.
To do this effectively, we first need a U.S. presence in the region, or at least a reliable on-the-ground partner there.
Without that, our ability to gather the intelligence necessary to pick the right targets is severely degraded.
We saw the tragic consequences of acting on incomplete intelligence on August 29, when a drone strike mistakenly killed ten innocent Afghans, including seven children and an aid worker with ties to the United States.
Second, we need a reliable way to actually get to the target.
President Biden likes comparing Afghanistan to countries like Yemen and Syria, but there’s a huge difference between these countries.
Afghanistan is landlocked, and our drones can’t just fly over the ocean to get there, like they can to Syria and Yemen.
When it comes to Afghanistan, our drones have to cross over other countries on the way – and those other countries aren’t obligated to allow us to use their airspace.
General McKenzie confirmed to me during our hearing that because we have withdrawn from Afghanistan, we need to rely on Pakistan’s airspace if we want to reach targets like ISIS-K or al Qaeda.
M. President, that should concern every American.
Pakistan, historically the Taliban’s fiercest international supporter, could revoke our access at any point.
And if they do, we would need to ask China, Iran, or Central Asian nations with close ties to Russia for permission to use their airspace or even their bases in order to conduct counterterrorism operations.
When I asked about this during the SASC hearing, Secretary Austin confirmed recent reports that the U.S. military, the finest fighting force the world has ever known, has had conversations with Russia about using their bases in Central Asian nations on Afghanistan’s northern border.
Secretary Austin insisted that we haven’t asked for Russia’s permission to use these bases – we’re simply considering an offer they made.
But if we have to “consider an offer” from the Kremlin just to keep al Qaeda from surging back in Afghanistan, President Biden hasn’t put America on very strong footing.
M. President, the bottom line is that our chaotic exit from Afghanistan has made it much harder for the U.S. military to keep the American people safe from terrorists.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Milley said during last week’s hearing that presidents are elected to make strategic decisions.
He also told us that the Afghanistan withdrawal was a strategic failure.
And he was right.
The way things stand today, we are at risk of recreating the same conditions that existed before 9/11: The Taliban are running things in Kabul, and given their longstanding partnership with al Qaeda, it’s naïve to expect that they would prevent these terrorists from operating freely.
Anyone who says we’re safer today than we were 20 years ago is getting ahead of themselves, and that goes for President Biden, too.
He needs to be more honest about what his decision to leave Afghanistan, no matter the cost, means for our security.
Real leaders take responsibility for their mistakes – they don’t make excuses for them.
Unfortunately, that is all we’ve heard from the president so far.
Thank you, M. President. I yield the floor.”
# # #