October 26, 2021
Who is Responsible for the Afghanistan Withdrawal Debacle?
By: U.S. Senator James Risch (R-ID)
The catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan has been thoroughly canvassed. The Biden administration’s failures in its retreat have been discussed at length. The fallout from President Joe Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan the way we did will tarnish America’s reputation.
All of this has been covered. Why, then, is it still important to talk about it now?
It bears discussing because in the administration’s haste to end a war without preconditions or guarantees of Americans’ safety from the Taliban, the Biden White House squandered 20 years of blood and sacrifice, reopened America to the threat of terrorist attacks, and damaged the United States’ credibility on the world stage.
By the administration’s own admission, it abandoned hundreds of Americans and left thousands of Afghan allies vulnerable to the murderous Taliban. My office received countless calls from Idahoans who had friends or family members trapped in Afghanistan, and I am deeply thankful that we were able to get every single Idahoan safely out of Afghanistan.
It’s heartbreaking that the same cannot be said for every American. Thirteen U.S. service members tragically lost their lives to a suicide bomber in the rushed and chaotic evacuation. And because of the Biden administration’s cataclysmic mismanagement of its withdrawal, Afghanistan is once again a breeding ground for terrorism.
A blunder of this magnitude begs the question: who is making foreign policy decisions in the White House? Nobody seems to have a satisfactory answer.
During an August 21st news conference, President Biden claimed we had “no indication” that American citizens were struggling to access the Kabul airport. At almost exactly the same time, reporters in Afghanistan were describing the extremely dangerous conditions facing U.S. citizens trying to get to the airport – something later admitted by Biden’s team.
President Biden asserted he ordered the withdrawal from Afghanistan based on the advice of senior U.S. military advisers. Yet last month, top Pentagon officials testified under oath that they advised the President to keep 2,500 troops on the ground and were not asked for advice on the withdrawal until August 26th, directly contradicting the President’s claim.
In a July interview, President Biden said a collapse of the Afghan government and a Taliban takeover of the country was “highly unlikely.” Yet, a memo sent that same month from the Kabul Embassy reportedly warned that the withdrawal as planned would result in the very debacle that unfolded. During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, I asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken for information about that memo. He refused to disclose it.
This memo’s existence indicates one of two possibilities: the President knew about the coming disaster and lied to the American people, or the President’s advisers never informed him about it. Either conclusion is deeply disturbing.
Is President Biden responsible for these failures, or are others in his administration pulling the strings?
Congress has a vital oversight role to play in foreign policy, a charge I take seriously as the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. However, the lack of answers and absence of accountability we’re currently receiving from this administration is shameful. I pushed Secretary of State Blinken hard at last month’s committee hearing and intend to do so again during the next Afghanistan hearing.
In only nine months, this administration’s miscalculations have weakened our allies, emboldened our adversaries, and left Americans less safe. If the administration doesn’t take drastic steps to execute a strong, accountable approach to foreign policy, I’m afraid to see how the remaining years of the Biden White House unfold.
President Biden and his administration must be accountable for their decisions, and they must do better.