Reports from Afghanistan of Taliban forces entering the capital city of Kabul on Sunday drew harsh responses from the Nebraska and Iowa congressional delegations.
Several news organizations, including the New York Times and the Associated Press, reported that Afghanistan’s government collapsed on Sunday with the flight from the country of President Ashraf Ghani and the entry into the capital of the Taliban, effectively sealing the insurgents’ control of the country. The fall of Kabul came swiftly after dozens of cities rapidly fell to the Taliban following U.S. troop withdrawals begun by former President Donald Trump and continued by President Joe Biden.
At 6:30 p.m. local time, the Taliban issued a statement saying their forces were moving into police districts to maintain security in areas that had been abandoned by government security forces. Taliban fighters, meeting no resistance, took up positions in parts of the city, according to the Times.
Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, a retired brigadier general who was deployed four times to the Middle East, said that the unfolding disaster was avoidable and that senior officials in the Department of Defense and possibly the Department of State should offer their resignations to Biden.
Yes, the buck stops with Biden, but “the president either got terrible advice or he ignored advice,” said Bacon, a Republican. “This was a strategic blunder.”
The U.S. had a military strategy in Afghanistan that had been working and at little cost, he said. That plan was based on a small force of 3,000 U.S. troops backed up by sophisticated air power.
“We had a plan that was working and could have continued working for a long time,” he said. A significant decrease in air support by the U.S. caused the collapse of Afghan forces, he said.
“What is unfolding before our eyes in Afghanistan is a colossal failure, and my heart aches for the Gold Star families who are asking if their loss was in vain, and for the people of Afghanistan who have assisted our military,” he said in a statement. “For months, I’ve warned the public about the potential takeover of the Taliban and it is happening before our eyes.
“The region is watching us ‘cut and run;’ our credibility is badly tarnished; and the strategic consequences will be felt for years. We also need to be aware that it’s not just the Taliban winning. So is al Qaeda who is allied with the Taliban, the very group that terrorized our nation on 9/11.”
Bacon noted that he had been critical of Trump for proposing the pullout but said the way it unfolded rests with Biden.
“If you are going to announce a withdrawal, you should have a plan for how you are going to get people out.” he said.
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement critical of Trump and Biden, saying that the U.S. would “regret” its moves and that foreign relations would suffer as a consequence.
“The unmitigated disaster in Afghanistan — the shameful, Saigon-like abandonment of Kabul, the brutalization of Afghan women, and the slaughter of our allies — is the predictable outcome of the Trump-Biden doctrine of weakness,” he said in the statement. “History must be clear about this: American troops didn’t lose this war — Donald Trump and Joe Biden deliberately decided to lose.”
Sasse said U.S. leaders failed to realize how crucial peacekeeping forces were to Afghan security.
“America’s leaders didn’t tell the truth that our small, forward-deployed force of a few thousand was the backbone of intelligence and special forces’ successful work to decapitate terror organizations,” his statement said. “The looming defeat will badly hurt American intelligence and give jihadis a safe haven in Afghanistan, again. America will regret this. Our allies will trust us less and our adversaries fear us less. China is already exploiting this latest instance of American retreat. We need a long-term national security strategy.”
In the meantime, the U.S. has a straightforward mission, Sasse said: To get an American military response in place so that flights can run “around the clock” until every American and Afghan partner and their families are evacuated.
Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., also issued a statement after receiving a briefing Sunday morning.
“The Senate was briefed this morning amid the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan,” Fischer said. “Thousands of lives are in imminent danger and our service men and women in Kabul are working hard under extremely dangerous conditions to evacuate U.S. citizens and our partners. Given that the Commander-in-chief chose not to act to slow the Taliban’s advances this past week, it is disgraceful that the administration was not better prepared for this eventuality.”
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, issued a lengthy statement condemning the Taliban and the U.S. withdrawal.
“The rushed and haphazard withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is not the ‘strategic shift’ President Biden sold to the American people. Instead, it’s a total abandonment of a country and its people — and a gift to the Taliban.
“What the world could soon witness is a nation controlled by the same bloodthirsty terrorists that sponsored Usama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the attacks on our homeland 20 years ago. It is a slap in the face to the thousands of men and women who served in this war. To some, maybe many, it feels like our nation has squandered the tremendous sacrifice they’ve made. The effort. The expense. The lives changed forever. Was it all for naught?”