The Afghanistan withdrawal disaster; Accountability, transparency are necessary

Published 9:48 am Tuesday, August 15, 2023

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“A knife in the heart.” That is how Christy Shamblin, the mother-in-law of Marine Sgt. Nicole Gee, described what it felt like hearing the Biden administration call the Afghanistan evacuation a “success.” Gee was one of the 13 U.S. servicemembers killed in a suicide bombing by ISIS-K terrorists at the Hamid Karzai International Airport on August 26, 2021. The same bomb that took Nicole from her family also killed Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, a Tennessean who volunteered for the dangerous mission at the airport to defend those trying to flee Afghanistan. He was only 23 years old. The families of Staff Sgt. Knauss and the 12 other servicemembers who died that day are still grieving for loved ones who should never have been put in such a perilous situation.
Two years have passed since those last terrible days in Afghanistan, and the consequences continue to reverberate around the world. And yet, not one Biden official has been held accountable for this infamous failure. Not one.
The Biden administration decided they wanted all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of 9/11. This was a purely political decision that ignored both the situation on the ground and advances in intra-Afghan peace talks. As predicted, when the U.S. hastily evacuated our troops from the country, chaos ensued and the Taliban captured Kabul in just 10 days.
The consequences were grave. Afghan women have been relegated to the Dark Ages and live in abject servitude. Girls are banned from going to school after the sixth grade, it is extremely difficult for women to get jobs, and beauty salons have been prohibited, denying Afghan women their femininity. The Taliban commits flagrant human rights abuses, including public executions, stonings, and whippings.
As of March 2023, Secretary of State Antony Blinken estimated there were “about 175” Americans still left in Afghanistan, some of whom are being detained by the Taliban. Where are the efforts to rescue them? Biden also left behind tens of thousands of people who worked with the U.S. government, many of whom are now in hiding. This immense betrayal sent a clear message to those who may have otherwise partnered with the U.S. military in the future – the United States will not have your back.
The Biden administration’s botched withdrawal also created a grave national security threat. The military was forced to abandon $7.2 billion worth of equipment and the Taliban has taken full advantage, selling U.S.-made automatic assault rifles, rockets, night vision equipment and other supplies to terrorists around the world. Meanwhile, the New Axis of Evil is filling the vacuum Biden created. Chinese companies are exploiting the country’s vast mineral reserves worth an estimated $1 trillion, and Chinese nationals have been caught trying to fly out of Bagram Air Base to Communist China with precious lithium. Beijing already controls more than 70 percent of the world’s extraction capability of rare earth minerals and almost 90 percent of the world’s processing capacity. The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to increase its control over these essential elements which will only increase Beijing’s military capabilities.
We need accountability for the Afghanistan withdrawal, and we must ensure nothing like this ever occurs again. It was a debacle of epic proportions, and accountability must fall on the shoulders of Biden and his advisors. It’s no wonder the military is facing a recruiting crisis! The families of Nicole Gee, Ryan Knauss, and the more than 2,000 other U.S. servicemembers we lost in Afghanistan want the truth, and that is the least they should be given.
(Sen. Marsha Blackburn represents Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.)

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