In just a couple of days, 20 years will have passed since the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Sadly, our nation is again mourning American lives cut short by cowardly terrorism after the deaths of 13 U.S. troops during the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops late last month.
Those deaths, the reports of Americans being stranded in Afghanistan, the horrific scenes at the Kabul Airport and the other tragic fallout from last month’s withdrawal have evoked some very strong emotions from Southwest Washington residents.
Those I’ve met with who feel the strongest have been our military veterans and the loved ones of those who served.
I share that while restating that I supported ending the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, a move also backed by the last three presidents, Republican and Democrat. Our goal upon entering Afghanistan in 2001 was to find those responsible for 9/11 and make sure that country would no longer be a hub for anti-U.S. terrorist activity. Thanks to the sacrifice of countless brave U.S. servicemen and women, we achieved those goals.
But the manner in which the Biden Administration executed that withdrawal and continues to deal with Americans left in Afghanistan has been nothing short of a disaster.
I am calling for a full congressional investigation into this withdrawal. It’s vital we understand who made the decisions that led to the chaos and hold accountable those individuals who were responsible for the mistakes and egregious lapses in judgement.
Days ago, Americans heard their president proudly calling the withdrawal “a success” — a declaration that defies the profound grief they’re feeling and unanswered questions they have. Questions like:
• What (faulty) intelligence led President Biden to promise the American public an orderly, secure withdrawal from Afghanistan? In April, he said, “We’ll not conduct a hasty rush to the exit. We’ll do it — we’ll do it responsibly, deliberately and safely.”
• Why has the administration been so reluctant to commit to a comprehensive plan to evacuate American citizens who were left in the country — a number by his own admission was in the hundreds upon our exit?
• Who was in charge of securing (or not securing) strategic airports that could have aided in the safe evacuation of American citizens and those Afghan allies who were promised visas for aiding the U.S. military against the Taliban?
• Some reports suggested that U.S. officials provided the Taliban with names of Americans and Afghan allies it planned to evacuate, essentially providing terrorists with what some are calling a “kill list.” Have these reports been exhaustively investigated? If those names were shared, we need to know who made the decision to endanger American lives and those of our allies.
• How much U.S. military equipment — aircrafts, machine guns, Black Hawk helicopters — was left for the Taliban to seize? Was there any kind of plan to mitigate the dangers caused by leaving billions of dollars in weaponry for the Taliban to use and sell on the black market?
I’ve joined with several of my colleagues in the U.S. House in introducing legislation that will initiate the investigation process.
Our bill demands the Biden Administration produce a plan to withdraw the remaining Americans who want to come back to the U.S.; requests a detailed list of all the military equipment abandoned and seized by the Taliban; requires complete transparency on agreements or deals made between the Biden Administration and the Taliban; and prohibits any federal funding or sanctions relief for the Taliban.
In addition to a full investigation of this disastrous conclusion to our 20 years in Afghanistan, we also deserve an immediate plan for how this country plans to seek out and eliminate terrorist threats to U.S. citizens that are already re-emerging in that region.
While nothing can shake the gratitude we feel for our service members who were deployed to Afghanistan and the Gold Star families who’ve tragically lost loved ones stationed there, they deserve more than thoughts and words.
For two decades, their sacrifices are what kept Americans safe from extremist Islamic terror attacks. Now our nation must investigate the faulty exit that threatens to diminish their sacrifice, and provide a plan for protecting U.S. citizens in a post-Afghanistan War reality.
U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, represents Washington’s 3rd Congressional District.
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