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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell duringa a news conference in Washington, D.C., this month. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday warned that a "rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan now would hurt our allies and delight the people who wish us harm."

Why it matters: McConnell's Senate floor remarks mark a rare public difference of opinion with President Trump, who's spoken of his desire to swiftly withdraw American troops from Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Driving the news: Axios' Jonathan Swan reported last Wednesday President Trump's administration plans to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Middle East and Afghanistan before the end of his presidency in January.

  • Two days later, Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said in a memo to military members "it's time to come home."
  • "[W]e remain committed to finishing the war that Al Qaida brought to our shores in 2001. ... [B]ut this is the critical phase in which we transition our efforts from a leadership to supporting role," he added. "All wars must end."

What he's saying: McConnell likened a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan to the American defense forces in 1975 leaving Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, after the Vietnam War, which he said was "humiliating."

  • "We're playing a limited ... but important role in defending American national security and American interests against terrorists who would like nothing more than for the most powerful force for good in the world to simply pick up our ball and go home. They would love that," McConnell said.
  • "The consequences of a premature American exit would likely be even worse than President Obama's withdrawal from Iraq back in 2011, which fueled the rise of ISIS and a new round of global terrorism."

Go deeper

Updated Nov 19, 2020 - World

Australia finds evidence of war crimes by elite troops in Afghanistan

Chief of the Australian Defense Force General Angus Campbell delivers the findings from the Inspector-General of the Australian Defense Force Afghanistan Inquiry, in Canberra Thursday morning local time. Photo: Mick Tasikas/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Allegations that elite Australian Defense Force troops unlawfully killed 39 civilians or prisoners in Afghanistan are "credible," said ADF chief Gen. Angus Campbell, announcing findings of a long-awaited report Thursday.

Driving the news: The findings came after a four-year inquiry into alleged war crimes and misconduct by Australia's elite special forces. The report finds most of the people killed in 23 incidents were prisoners and that those who died were "non-combatants or no longer combatants."

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
59 mins ago - Economy & Business

New deals in the COVID economy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 is the macro horror of our lifetimes, and has destroyed or severely damaged countless businesses. But, like with most horribles, it also has created some opportunities.

Driving the news: Merck this morning announced an agreement to buy OncoImmune, a Maryland-based biotech that showed promising late-stage clinical results for a therapy that treats severe and critical coronavirus cases.

2 hours ago - Technology

Biden's openings for tech progress

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images 

Item No. 1 on President-elect Joe Biden's day-one tech agenda, controlling the flood of misinformation online, offers no fast fixes — but other tech issues facing the new administration hold out opportunities for quick action and concrete progress.

What to watch: Closing the digital divide will be a high priority, as the pandemic has exposed how many Americans still lack reliable in-home internet connections and the devices needed to work and learn remotely.