Calling the Afghan government “rife with corruption,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, applauded President Biden’s move to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 as the only reasonable step after 20 years of frustration and failure.
“The longer we stay, the stronger the Taliban gets,” Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said in an interview for the Yahoo News podcast “Skullduggery.” “The longer we stay, the more corrupt the Afghan government gets. There is no argument that if the United States stayed another 10 to 15 years, it would lead to greater political stability. In fact, it seems the longer we stay, the less stable the government is.”
Murphy’s comments came as Biden was preparing to announce that he will pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan with no conditions imposed on the Taliban to live up to a peace agreement it signed last year. The move has set off a sharp debate in Congress, with Republicans and even some Democrats warning that the withdrawal could wipe out gains achieved by the U.S. presence — especially for women — and lead to chaos and a possible resurgence of al-Qaida once American troops depart.
But Murphy, who strongly urged the Biden White House to pull out of the country, said the president’s decision is a bow to reality.
“For the last 15 years, we’ve stayed and stayed and stayed under the belief that our military presence there would help the Afghan government and the Afghan military to become strong enough to be able to govern the country and protect its citizens from Taliban advances,” he said. “None of that has come to fruition.”
A big reason, Murphy said, is the weakness, instability and corruption in the Afghan government, despite years of U.S. assistance.
“I just hate to say it: The Afghan government hasn’t lived up to their end of the bargain,” he added. “That government is still rife with corruption. The [Afghan] military has been promising to get better and increase capability, and they have not. So at some point the United States has to take no for an answer. And the Afghan government has had ample opportunity to be able to create a governance and security space such as to rob the Taliban of its operating oxygen.”
As for the prospect of a resurgence of al-Qaida, Murphy said the threat to the U.S. has evolved and shifted globally since the days after the Sept. 11 attacks when American troops invaded Afghanistan to topple a government that had given safe haven to the terror group headed by Osama bin Laden.
“To be honest, al-Qaida in Afghanistan is not a threat to the United States in the way it used to be," he said. "The threats to the United States in the counterterrorism space are in other places, and we deserve to be able to shift our resources to the places where the real threats to our homeland actually present."