CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript: Interview with Dan Kildee


Date: Aug. 21, 2021


PAUL: Democratic Congressman from Michigan Dan Kildee with me now. Congressman, thank you so much, we appreciate it. I wanted to first of all get your take. What is your most urgent concern right now, not just regarding this withdrawal, but the messaging around it?

REP. DAN KILDEE (D-MI): Well, obviously, the withdrawal is the concern. The messaging around it, I think we ought to just be as transparent as possible. I'm one who believes that there were some failures. It's disappointing. I think the Taliban was more aggressive than was expected, by some anyway. And the Afghan government was far weaker than what was expected.

Having said that, the most pressing issue is to make sure the message is clear to Americans in Afghanistan, but especially to those Afghan nationals who were with us, sacrificed themselves, put themselves in harm's way, that this country is going to welcome them. It's disappointing to hear some voices say we ought not. We have a promise to keep, and I hope that this doesn't devolve into an ideological or partisan debate over whether or not we should keep that promise.

PAUL: I know you feel very strongly about taking care of the refugees, certainly. And I wanted to ask about what President Biden had said yesterday, as well, in that press conference. He said, let me be clear, any American who wants to come home, we will get you here. He went on to say he'll mobilize every resource necessary. What is the realistic expectation of that?

KILDEE: Well, I think part of the difficulty is that some Americans in Afghanistan were not necessarily registered with the United States embassy there. So there's some issues in terms of identifying Americans who are on the ground in Afghanistan. Obviously, the security situation is going to impact that. We heard the discussion between members of Congress and the secretary of defense about issues involving getting people to the airport. Obviously, that's the critical issue.

There is plenty of time, and should be, for a complete deep dive and a review of everything that precipitated what has not been a smooth departure. But none of that should obfuscate at all the importance of this decision. The president made the right call, 20 more years in Afghanistan was not going to change the situation other than put more Americans lives at risk.

And I'm pleased that that's the case. And I hope that my colleagues don't somehow conflate some of the problems that we're obviously seeing right now with the decision that this president made, finally, at long last, the president made the decision to get us out of there, and I think it was the right call.

PAUL: OK, but what information do you need to get? I know that Speaker Pelosi is calling for a member briefing as early as Monday regarding how we got to this point. Where do you think the miscommunication, the missteps, the miscalculations came from?

KILDEE: That's what I don't know, and that's what we need to find out. And it's Congress's role, no matter who the president is, to ask these tough questions and not be satisfied until we have complete answers to all of them. But it appears that there was at least a misinterpretation of the intelligence, or a lack of complete intelligence that would have shown just how precipitously the country would fall into the hands of the Taliban.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't have withdrawn. It means we should have. But obviously, those are questions that we're going to need to have answered, partly because we have a responsibility to hold the administration accountable, but also history has to be informed by the facts. And the only way we learn from our history is if it is clear and accurate. And we have to make sure that we create that record.

PAUL: New reporting this morning from Nick Paton Walsh, who spoke with a senior official there in Afghanistan, who told him that the man at the presidential palace last week who negotiated for the Taliban with the Afghanistan national security advisor for the surrender of President Ghani's government, that man is actually an affiliate of Al- Qaeda. The president has said there is nobody from Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. We know that that's not true.

[10:35:00] But do you have any concerns that Afghanistan could yet again become a breeding ground for terrorists, not just Al-Qaeda, but even some sort of a cohesive organization between Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban?

KILDEE: We have to take that threat seriously. We have to act upon the intelligence that we have. We have to be aggressive in dealing with it. And yes, I mean, obviously, this is a nation, a country that doesn't operate as a nation. It operates very much as a group of tribal villages. And the fact that we have the Taliban in position right now is concerning.

But it doesn't necessarily justify 20 more years of us being there. I think there are going to have to be ways that we monitor the activities there and act accordingly if we see a threat emerging. That's a tough place to be for us as a nation, but that's where we are, and I think it's a better place for us to be in the long term.

PAUL: Congressman Dan Kildee, we appreciate you taking time to talk with this morning. Thank you, sir.

KILDEE: Thank you.