Ayotte – who was the co-chair of the U.S. Institute of Peace’s congressionally mandated Afghanistan Study Group – said the botched withdrawal was not an intelligence failure and that, while events unfolded “faster” than many thought, Kabul’s collapse was “not outside what people had to have told President Biden could happen.”
“I think many people think this happened more quickly, but this was one of the outcomes on the table that could happen from withdrawing these troops so precipitously,” Ayotte said, calling it “very incompetent in the way this was done.”
“And the fact that they did not really think about how our people would get out safely,” she continued, adding that there was “no clear logistics plan” from the Biden administration to help the interpreters and Afghan people “who helped us” get out safely.
“So, to me, if you were going to withdraw from Afghanistan, this is not the way to do it and this was not done, in my view, in a responsible way,” Ayotte added.
Ayotte said that the Biden administration “should have” evacuated all American citizens before pulling the troops out.
Ayotte warned that the “damage” to America’s credibility by the botched withdrawal also “emboldens our adversaries” as well as “terrorist groups,” such as the Taliban.
The New Hampshire Republican also warned that the “impact on Afghan women is going to be devastating.”
“We’ve already heard reports that the Taliban coming into Afghan cities and forcing unmarried women to marry their fighters,” Ayotte said. “We know that women are already being abused, and that’s just the beginning.”
Ayotte remarked that many of the younger women in Afghanistan have grown up without the Taliban being in power and have “been able to do things” like go to school, work a job and “live their lives.”
“That’s not going to happen, unfortunately, I think, with the Taliban coming back into power,” she said.
When asked if the Taliban would return to the practice of forced female genital mutilation, Ayotte said she hoped they would not but pointed to the group’s past history on the practice.
“If you look at their history here, it’s a very disturbing one, and, unfortunately, I wish I could say that will never return but I cannot assure you of that,” Ayotte said. “I think they have a denigrated view of women and they do not view women as having any equality with men.”
“And they will degrade, and they will, unfortunately, harm women and this is not going to be pretty for us to watch in terms of our record of human rights,” she added.
Ayotte also called Biden’s speech on the matter “tremendously disappointing” and warned that the president’s decision in Afghanistan will “undermine” America’s credibility worldwide.
“What I also worry about is that we’re going to see a much faster reconstitution of terror groups that could threaten the U.S. in Afghanistan,” the former senator said. “And, to me, the fact that the president said we planned for every contingency — well, if this is the nature for planning for every contingency, we’re in deep trouble.”
“Because, obviously we all saw the images of people trying to cling onto our planes as they left and our own people running for their lives,” Ayotte continued.
“And that, to me, is not what we should see from the United States of America,” she added.
Ayotte also warned that China becoming emboldened by “taking a greater role in Afghanistan” is not good for American interests.
“I also worry that just the images of how this withdrawal was handled will embolden countries like China and Russia in furthering their narrative, which I do not believe is true, that the U.S. is no longer the superpower,” the former senator said.
Ayotte also said that she hopes Biden “will follow through” on getting U.S. personnel and interpreters who helped American forces out of Afghanistan.
“It would be shameful if we did not do that,” Ayotte said, adding the U.S. needs to “keep our eye” on the “reconstitution of terrorist groups” in the region amid the withdrawal.