Nineteen months ago, the last U.S. soldier was lifted out of Afghanistan, but hundreds of Americans were left behind in a country overrun by the Taliban and abandoned by President Biden. Yet in a recent press conference, Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby had the audacity to state that he was proud of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. This followed the release of a report from the Biden administration that lays the blame for this withdrawal at the feet of President Trump, taking little to no responsibility. This is a sign of failed leadership.
President Biden seems to forget that a year and a half ago millions of Americans, our allies, and our adversaries saw the botched Afghanistan withdrawal with their own eyes. Plastered across our television sets were tragic images of Afghans giving up their infants to complete strangers in hopes of saving them from the tyrannical rule of the Taliban. Others were so desperate for freedom that they tried climbing onto American aircraft during take-off, eventually plummeting to their deaths. One Afghan was even found crushed within the wheel well of an outbound aircraft.
Despite the desperation of Afghan citizens to escape Taliban rule, even to the point of death, this president saw fit to leave hundreds of his own countrymen behind. This botched withdrawal won’t just be a stain on this administration for all-time, but Kabul will be remembered with Saigon as one of the worst military evacuations in American history. In turn, our adversaries from China and Russia to Iran and North Korea are emboldened. This is extremely dangerous.
There must be accountability. Unfortunately, President Biden has been seeking to avoid accountability for himself and for this administration. In fact, in his press conference on the report, Kirby stated, “For all this talk of chaos, I just didn’t see it, not from my perch.” I wonder if Mr. Kirby would be comfortable saying that to the families of the 13 servicemembers murdered by a suicide bomber during the evacuation.
How do we know this report is about the Biden administration making excuses instead of taking responsibility for its failures? The 12-page summary fails to mention the abandonment of Bagram Air Base. Instead of keeping this pivotal airbase, U.S. forces deserted it in the middle of the night. This decision emboldened the Taliban, demoralized the Afghan government and military, made it harder for U.S. allies to evacuate after the fall of Kabul, and allowed the Taliban to free thousands of prisoners being held there, including senior al Qaeda operatives.
It is far past time to hold this administration accountable ourselves, because clearly it isn’t going to take responsibility for its own decisions. Many may wonder why this accountability hasn’t happened yet. The answer is simple; when Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, they refused. This was a dereliction of duty. Keeping the executive branch in check is one of Congress’ most important responsibilities. It shouldn’t matter if the president in office is Republican or Democrat—we should always be willing to fulfill our oversight duty as the people’s representatives. Despite this Constitutional obligation, Democrats refused to call this administration to account, even after finding out that President Biden left behind at least $7 billion in military equipment that is now turning up in various conflict zones.
This is why Republicans made a promise to the American people when we took control of the House: we will have “a government that’s accountable.” And that’s what the Foreign Affairs Committee sought to do in its hearing titled: “During and After the Fall of Kabul: Examining the Administration’s Emergency Evacuation from Afghanistan.” The American people deserve answers, and we are working overtime to get them.
When the last helicopters left the rooftops of Kabul, President Biden told the American people that only one-hundred American citizens remained in the country. The reality was much worse. Thanks to volunteer veteran groups who risked their lives to save their fellow countrymen, we now know that the Biden administration left over 1,000 Americans behind in Afghanistan.
The thought of leaving Americans behind goes against every fiber of my being. The Ranger Creed states, “I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstance will I ever embarrass my country.” Because of President Biden’s failed leadership, our country did not live up to this creed, and we are still red in the face because of it.
It is unconscionable that President Biden would leave American citizens behind and abandon our Afghan allies that had helped us through the war. For two decades, these Afghans guided our troops through dangerous territories, gave us vital intel, and aided our soldiers. For the Taliban, they are primary targets. In total, this administration abandoned tens of thousands of Afghan military personnel and interpreters that we promised to give sanctuary. What does it say to our allies around the world that we abandoned our Afghan allies to the Taliban? With the rise of nations with larger and more powerful militaries, we need our allies to trust that we will keep our word.
There are also 13 American families who will never see their loved ones again because of this president’s ineptitude. 13 U.S. servicemembers were killed and 45 were wounded after a member of ISIS, released by the Taliban from Bagram prison, detonated a suicide bomb at the Kabul airport. Among the servicemembers killed was U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, a native of Corryton, Tennessee. He was just 23 years old. Tennesseans now, and forever, will keep his memory with us and honor his service to our nation. And when we fight for accountability in Washington, his face will be in front of our eyes.
What’s more disturbing is that this tragedy could have been prevented. Marine Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that U.S. intelligence had a description of the two terrorists planning the suicide attack.
While on duty, Sgt. Vargas-Andrews saw the couple matching the description of the suspected bombers from his sniper tower. With a clear opportunity for engagement, he requested permission to engage. The message he got back is chilling: “Do not engage.”
Eventually the suspect disappeared, and later that day 13 of our servicemembers and 170 Afghans were killed in a suicide bombing. Forty-five more soldiers, including Sgt. Vargas-Andrews, were maimed. This was negligence of the highest order. But John Kirby had the arrogance to stand before the American people and claim the mission a success. Maybe he should stand before the families and loved ones of the 58 American casualties and tell them how proud he is of this botched withdrawal.
Someone must answer for the decisions that cost a nation its freedom and 13 American servicemembers their lives—and that person is our Commander-in-Chief.
Despite the failures of this administration during our withdrawal from Afghanistan, I want veterans of the War on Terror to know that your service to our country was not in vain. We kept America safe for 20 years, and Americans are alive today because of your sacrifices. Thank you for everything you did for our country and God bless you.
Mark Green is a U.S. representative for Tennessee and a former physician, business owner, and combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, where he served three tours of duty. He is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.