Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, the first female combat veteran elected to the U.S. Senate, condemned the potential collapse of Afghanistan to the Taliban, as the insurgent group gains control of one provincial capital after another in short order ahead of President Biden’s August 31 troop withdrawal date.
Ernst blamed the president for the conditions on the ground, as the Pentagon engaged in a mission to help evacuate Americans from the U.S. embassy in Kabul.
She told “The Story” that while Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s spokesman, has made himself available to reporters multiple times this week, Biden conversely remained silent on the issue Friday as he left Washington for a weekend vacation at Camp David near Sabillasville, Md.
“This is a very grim reality, not just for the United States but for so many of our partners around the world to see Afghanistan fall like this. It is all on President Biden’s shoulders,” Ernst said Friday.
“This rapid and haphazard withdrawal of American troops — before we knew that our embassy would be safe, before we had our Afghan interpreters and other friends out of Afghanistan, to allow it to fall like this without any sort of plan or recourse, it is shameful.”
“Again, it is all on President Biden”
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Ernst said the potential return of Taliban control over Afghanistan could make it possible for Islamic extremist groups to again have a safe haven to “reconstitute” themselves. Afghanistan was a hotbed for terrorists before President Bush sent troops there following the 9/11 attacks.
Al Qaeda, the group behind the 9/11 attacks, has seen their numbers dwindle in the 20 years since to approximately 200, according to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“This did not have to happen,” Ernst warned. She added the return of the Taliban brings new risks, especially to the women in the country who were enjoying fledgling freedom under the democratically-elected governments over the past decade.
Biden had been warned by other Republicans he would risk a “Saigon moment” – in reference to how the Vietnam War ended – if he went ahead with a swift withdrawal from Afghanistan.
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House Armed Services Committee ranking member Mike Rogers of Alabama and Committee member Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin both made the reference in recent weeks, with Rogers saying in a statement this week that he pressed the White House for a plan to “avoid the very situation that is now happening in Afghanistan.”
“Now, American lives are at risk because President Biden still doesn’t have a plan,” Rogers said. Gallagher remarked in June that “chaos on the ground” is possible.
“This may be the ‘Saigon moment’ where you’ve got the helicopter leaving and that’s what everybody associates with his policy,” he said at the time.