Since Afghanistan fell under Taliban control after the complete U.S. withdrawal, veteran members of Congress who previously served in the war in Afghanistan have publicly condemned President Joe Biden’s administration’s handling of the withdrawal.
In an August 24 press conference, Republican House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced a number of fellow Republican lawmakers who were veterans of the Afghan war, all of whom criticized the messy U.S. exit.
During that August 24 press conference, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who served in Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015, said, “We now know, due to the negligence of this administration, the Taliban now has access to over $85 billion worth of American military equipment. That includes over 75,000 vehicles, over 200 airplanes and helicopters, over 600,000 small arms and light weapons. The Taliban now has more Black Hawk helicopters than 85 percent of the countries in the world. But they don’t just have weapons, they have night-vision goggles, body armor, medical supplies.”
“And unbelievably, unfathomable to me and so many others, is that the Taliban now have biometric devices, which have the fingerprints, eye scans and the biographical information of the Afghans who helped us over the last 20 years,” Banks added.
Banks criticized the Biden administration for its apparent lack of a plan to take back the equipment left behind in Afghanistan and raised the potential that Al Qaeda and ISIS-K could also get their hands on abandoned U.S. equipment.
Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL) a U.S. Army Green Beret veteran who served multiple Afghanistan tours shared his concerns about at-risk Afghans, including one Afghan who fought alongside Waltz’s unit who was recently captured by Taliban forces. “They didn’t just kill him, they took him home to his village and beheaded his brothers and cousins in front of him before beheading him.”
“What has been clear from the months of briefings that our committee have received on our armed services committee, is that the Taliban equals Al Qaeda 3.0,” Waltz continued. “And one thing that Joe Biden either won’t admit or doesn’t understand, is that what happens in Afghanistan doesn’t stay in Afghanistan. It spreads like a cancer and it follows us home.”
In a September 8, Fox News interview, Waltz also said the same U.S. officials who served under President Barack Obama and who agreed to trade five Taliban captives for Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl, went on to advise Biden through his handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), who lost both of his legs in Afghanistan while serving as an Army explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician, called on members of the media to question the Biden administration’s focus on matters unrelated to Afghanistan during withdrawal.
“The administration will listen to you,” Mast told reporters during the August 24 press conference. “They’ll probably listen to you more than anybody else. If we know one thing, it’s they’re most concerned with optics and that’s probably what’s putting more people in danger than anything else. The optics of why they wanted to get out so soon. The optics of why they’re not calling this a combat mission. You can help to create the pressure to get Americans back home.”
Even after the last U.S. troops left Afghanistan in August, hundreds of Americans were still known to be left in Afghanistan.
In another press conference on August 31, after the last U.S. troops left Afghanistan, Mast said the Biden administration has been lying to the American people about whether terrorists will take over Afghanistan, and whether abandoned U.S. military arms will be used against the U.S. and its allies.
“These lies can’t be the way forward,” Mast said. “They have to come to an end immediately and this has to be the moment that they are accounted for.”
Rep. Mark Green (R-TN), who served in the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (160th SOAR), criticized what he characterized as several lies by the Biden administration during the Afghanistan withdrawal effort.
“He’s continually saying things that are completely different from what his own people are saying,” Green said. “For example, ‘no one thought it was a bad idea to withdraw like this,’ . . . when we know that people in his senior staff said we shouldn’t withdraw. Things like ‘the Afghan people don’t want to leave,’ yet there were tens of thousands of applications [to leave] that were already in process.”
“And I think the thing that really angers me the most is that ‘the Afghan military did not want to fight.’ That is absolutely incorrect. I served with those men and women, I took care of them when they were wounded on the battlefield, Afghan special forces in my hands bleeding. They are warriors and they have carried the ground fight, if you go and do your homework, for the last several years with over 50,000 casualties. They were brave and they wanted to fight but they felt abandoned by the United States of America.”
In a separate August 28 interview with Fox News, Green also said Biden should declare that the Taliban had not met their end of an agreement to allow people safe passage to the airport and say “We are going to expand this operation. I’d put more military in there, I’d get every single American out and I’d start killing bad guys.”
During the August 24 press conference, Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-TX), a veteran U.S. Navy fighter pilot who participated in some of the first airstrikes in Afghanistan of the war, said, “For all of us, this is not politics. Nobody wants to be standing up in front of you talking about this. This is a failure. We want to be talking about other things but this is personal and it’s about Americans, not politics.”
Ellzey noted there have been 2,443 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan since 2001 and another 30,000 who have taken their own lives after being “eternally wounded by that which they have witnessed and experienced in Afghanistan.” Ellzey said, “There memory lives on and it wasn’t in vain. They did their jobs.”
The criticism of the Afghan withdrawal was not limited to Republican lawmakers. In an interview with MSCNBC, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), said “We don’t have a plan” for getting Americans and wartime allies out of Afghanistan.
“Everything that’s happening right now, these extraordinary numbers of people that we’re bringing out is because of these heroic efforts by our troops and our State Department diplomats, young consular officers trying to sort through immigration paperwork,” Moulton, a veteran U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer who served four tours in Iraq, said. “It’s because of their heroism on the ground that we’re saving so many people. Not because anyone in Washington gave them a plan.”