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Republican Congressman Steve Chabot Weighs In On Biden's Speech

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

This afternoon, President Biden spoke from the White House and defended his decision to complete the pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. While he acknowledged the Taliban's takeover of the country happened more quickly than expected, he reiterated his long-held position that the U.S. has spent too long and sacrificed too much in Afghanistan. For a response to Biden's speech, we're joined now by Congressman Steve Chabot, a Republican from Ohio. He's a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and he is the ranking member of the subcommittee overseeing Afghanistan.

Welcome.

STEVE CHABOT: Thank you, Ailsa.

CHANG: So I want to start with your reaction to President Biden's speech today. Was there something you wanted to hear but did not?

CHABOT: Well, I'd like to see the president take some responsibility for the debacle of really historic proportions that we've seen. And he certainly didn't do that. He was very defensive. And I thought particularly unfortunate was the victim-shaming of the Afghanistan troops and the people of that country. He essentially said they wouldn't fight. In the last 18 months - fortunately, we haven't suffered a U.S. death in 18 months. They've had something like 2,600 in the last year. They have been fighting, but they needed the U.S. to be there to back them up. And pulling these troops out as he did, I just think is shameful both to those people that are our allies and especially the risk that this puts our nation in. And that's the thing that I'm particularly concerned about.

CHANG: Let me just make sure I understand your position. Do you disagree with the decision to pull out of Afghanistan? Or do you disagree with the way the president, his administration has pulled out of Afghanistan?

CHABOT: Both. And I was opposed to this when President Trump first talked about it. But - and I don't think President Trump ultimately would have gone this way because his was dependent upon the conditions on the ground. One of the main things being that al-Qaida and the Taliban would basically not continue to coordinate as they have been. That hasn't happened, so I don't think President Trump would have gone ahead with this. But in any event, even if you agree or disagree with the policy itself, the actual carrying out of this has been recklessly negligent. It's been chaotic, completely disorganized. And so it's just been a complete mess.

CHANG: Well, as to the decision to pull out at all out of Afghanistan, I mean, we heard President Biden double down on the White House argument that the U.S. achieved what it went to Afghanistan to achieve and that staying another year or another five years, whatnot, would have put a more - would have put more American lives at risk and would not have changed the trajectory in Afghanistan. How do you respond to that piece of this?

CHABOT: Well, I disagree because essentially what has happened - another important thing was to make sure that we didn't have a safe haven for terrorists to be able to attack us here at home or allies across the world. Now, instead of having a relatively stable situation, where we had U.S. eyes on the ground - we had intelligence there; we had allies - we now have the worst of the worst. We have the Taliban. We have al-Qaida, probably ISIS and other groups of that ilk who are all going to be operating out of there, both in the region, across the globe. And they'll be able to hit us right here at home. And so for those of our troops - and I understand that families may - or military personnel may be thinking that this was all for naught, everything that they did has been - was it worth it? No. That's what they might think. But they did prevent, over the last 20 years, another September 11, which likely would have happened had they not done that. The problem is...

CHANG: May I ask?

CHABOT: Now we're open to those types of attacks.

CHANG: May I ask, Congressman, what is Congress' responsibility in all of this? What would you say - anything?

CHABOT: Well, yes, absolutely. Congress needs to be very closely involved. And we have had not only hearings, but we've had briefings by the administration. And we're not allowed to talk about exactly what we were told, but many of us were very concerned about this and warned that what we saw happen was likely to happen. Unfortunately, it has happened, and a lot of people are going to suffer because of it.

CHANG: I'm curious what you think about how the last stages of this pullout - how those last several - how these last several days will impact America's moral authority on the world stage. Do you think it will have a lasting impact?

CHABOT: Oh, I think it will have an impact. I think the United States are - the way we're going to be viewed on the world stage at this point on is much diminished as a result of this. And that's very unfortunate because our interests are basically to be seen as a leader, you know, a benign, a good thing, a good force across the globe. And our enemies may not fear us the extent they did, and unfortunately, our allies may not think they can rely upon us to the extent that they have. And this puts us really at risk here at home. And that's the tragedy of this. This did not have to happen.

CHANG: That is Republican Steve Chabot of Ohio.

Thank you very much for joining us today.

CHABOT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.