Exclusive -- Ryan Zinke: Botched Afghanistan Withdrawal Leaves Special Operations Forces Around the World at Greater Risk
Retired Navy SEAL commander and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said President Joe Biden’s botched Afghanistan withdrawal now puts the hundreds of special operations forces around the world working in dozens of countries with local partners on the ground at risk.
Zinke, in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on Friday, said the way the withdrawal was carried out — abandoning Afghan allies who helped the U.S. military in Afghanistan at the risk of their lives — now makes it more difficult for U.S. troops to gain the trust of other foreign allies on the ground.
“We’re going to put our guys further at risk around the globe because the message is ‘You just can’t rely on us,'” he said. “A lot of the interpreters were shoulder to shoulder with us. Many of them lost their family. They were hunted down. So they had everything on the line. Now, the level of trust that we can generate to have anyone help us at all has been eroded.”
There are nearly 5,000 special operations forces deployed across almost 60 countries, according to the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Gen. Richard Clarke in July.
Zinke, who commanded several SEAL Teams, including Six and One, said he was at a SEAL reunion in Coronado when Kabul collapsed. He said:
There’s a little bar called Danny’s in Coronado, and you have a picture of every SEAL that has been lost since 9/11. And there are a lot of pictures and there’s a lot of angry warriors that have sacrificed both their families and members over what appears to be not much — but [they’re] very angry about what’s occurring and why it occurred, and the denials that everything is OK. Well, everything’s not okay. And It hasn’t been okay.
Zinke, who is running to represent Montana again in the U.S. House of Representatives, said he is seeing “zero leadership” from the White House.
“The military is being boxed in some very, very poor decisions,” he said, pointing to the Biden administration closing Bagram Air Base and leaving only Kabul — with a single airstrip in a city surrounded by 3.4 million — as the only option to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from.
“There’s obviously larger airstrips that we spent millions of dollars constructing — a couple in Kandahar that are better suited,” he said. “We didn’t have enough force structure or control on the outside. So then we weld the fences. I’m not sure I can point to anything we did right.”
“I think the bottom line is we, we showed weakness and retreat rather than strength and resolve. And then the fundamental idea that you’re going to negotiate in good faith and rely on the benevolence of Taliban. I mean, that statement in itself is ludicrous,” he said, adding:
These are the same guys that were dancing in the streets and aided in 9/11 and the 9/11 anniversary is coming up. And we should take a moment to understand the evil that was behind that. And these are the same guys that behead and hunt down women and children, so to rely on their benevolence and support them is just nuts.
He also expressed concern over the vetting being done of those who may be brought into the U.S., citing the Biden administration’s performance at the southern border.
“They’re processed within hours, given a ticket somewhere or on a plane, and within a couple of hours are in the U.S. We have no idea where these people are,” he said.
“America deserves better,” he said. “We sit just a few months in to near the Biden administration. And they’re talking about climate change yesterday. We begged OPEC to produce more while doing everything we can to kill our ability to produce natural resources and not become dependent upon foreign entities.
“We’ve seen Afghanistan being stable, with a path. And I agreed with withdrawing, but you don’t withdraw like this — in the middle of the night without a plan, not knowing where your citizens are.”
For now, he said, while there are U.S. troops on the ground in Afghanistan, he said he hopes the nation can rally around them — and then look towards to 2022 and 2024.
“Our plan would be a majority [in Congress], then the White House, to save America and stop this nonsense,” he said. “I believe we will get the majority back, but we’re also going to have to show the American people that we could lead, that we can address these problems.”
“We’re a great nation and I’m hoping to get through this. But certainly my thoughts and prayers are with those troops and citizens that are stranded on foreign shores.”