On Thursday, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton criticized President Joe Biden’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and called for U.S. troops to expand beyond their perimeter at the Hamid Karzai International Airport and actively work to rescue Americans unable to reach the Kabul airport.
“President Biden’s ill-planned, chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan has stranded thousands of American citizens behind enemy lines, turning them in effect into hostages of the Taliban,” Cotton said in an emailed statement. “Instead of ordering rescue missions to save our people, as our allies have done, the Biden administration is relying on the Taliban’s good graces to ensure the safety of our citizens. As a result, terrified Americans are being forced to run a gauntlet of armed terrorist checkpoints to reach the safety of Kabul airport.”
Cotton’s comments come a day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said U.S. forces in Afghanistan “don’t have the capability to go out and collect large numbers of people.”
In a Wednesday advisory, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul also said, “The United States government cannot ensure safe passage to the Hamid Karzai International Airport.”
In his Thursday statement, Cotton wrote, “My office has received numerous reports of American citizens and Afghan allies being harassed, beaten, and abused by Taliban thugs. These reports are in addition to the televised scenes of chaos at the airport perimeter.”
“This catastrophe of the president’s making must come to an end,” Cotton continued. “It’s time for President Biden to authorize the military to stop this rolling humiliation, expand the perimeter at Kabul airport, and rescue Americans trapped behind enemy lines. Anything less amounts to an abandonment of our fellow Americans and a shameful abdication of duty in a moment of crisis.”
Between 11,000 and 15,000 Americans were believed to still be stuck in Afghanistan as of Tuesday.
Biden has authorized up to 6,000 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan and on Wednesday said U.S. troops could remain in the country, beyond his August 31 deadline to end the U.S. military mission in the country, in order to evacuate Americans.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said on Wednesday that about 4,500 U.S. troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan, including 20 maneuver companies.
“On top of them as the United States Navy and Air Force. We have multiple squadrons of F-18s, AV-8s, F-16s, AC-130s, B-52s, and MQ-9s,” Milley said. “We have a significant amount of rotary-wing aviation on the ground, including attack and lift helicopters. In addition, we are working with our allies and partners through our British infantry rifle companies, along with British special forces on the ground working with us. There’s also a Turkish security force; there are other international Special Operations Forces.”