Mitch McConnell Says Terrorists 'Invigorated' and 'Excited' by U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday that terrorists are "invigorated" and "excited" by the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

President Joe Biden has set August 31 as the deadline for the full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. On Thursday—amid the rapid evacuation of Americans, allies and Afghan refugees—the militant extremist group ISIS-K carried out an attack at the Kabul airport that left more than 170 people dead, including 13 U.S. service members.

"We're looking at the exit, and over the next two days our heroic military is doing the best they can with a horrible policy decision. This is one of the worst foreign policy decisions in American history, much worse than Saigon," McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.

McConnell argued that the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975 posed little threat to Americans, because there were not Vietnamese terrorists planning to carry out attacks within the U.S. He said that with Afghanistan, the situation is the opposite.

Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is one of the "worst foreign policy decisions in American history" in a Sunday interview with Fox News. In this photo, McConnell heads toward the Senate Chamber in the U.S. Capitol on August 11 in Washington, D.C. Liz Lynch/Getty Images

"Just because we decided to stop fighting doesn't mean the terrorists go away. So they're still out there. They're invigorated. They're emboldened. They're excited about the success they see in bringing America to its knees in Afghanistan," McConnell said.

The GOP Senate leader was highly critical of former President Donald Trump's efforts to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban. In February 2020, the Trump administration and the Taliban signed a peace agreement that called for the full withdrawal of U.S. forces by May 1 of this year.

After he took office, Biden chose to abide by Trump's peace deal with the Taliban but extended the withdrawal deadline to September 11. He later moved that date forward to August 31. However, the Taliban regained near-total control of Afghanistan on August 15—two weeks before the president's withdrawal date.

The U.S. military has worked to rapidly evacuate Americans, allies and Afghan refugees remaining in the country in the wake of the Taliban's swift takeover. Kabul's international airport has remained under U.S. military control and the Taliban has largely allowed the evacuation to proceed with relatively little hindrance. However, the evacuation's security has been threatened by ISIS-K—which is opposed to the U.S. and the Taliban.

In the wake of the ISIS-K attack on Thursday, Biden and top administration officials have repeatedly vowed revenge against the militant extremist group. The Pentagon carried out a drone strike in retaliation against ISIS-K that reportedly killed two prominent members of the militant group.

After an explosion was reported in Kabul on Sunday, a CENTCOM spokesperson told Newsweek that the U.S. military had eliminated "an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamid Karzai International airport."

"We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material," Captain Bill Urban, the spokesperson, said.

"We are assessing the possibilities of civilian casualties, though we have no indications at this time. We remain vigilant for potential future threats."

Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told Fox News Sunday that the Biden administration planned to continue taking out ISIS-K targets in Afghanistan moving forward, despite the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

The president "will ensure that we get the people responsible for this, that we continue to put pressure on the groups responsible for this, and that we continue to take targets off the battlefield," Sullivan said.