Congressman Doug LaMalfa recently issued the following statement on the situation in Afghanistan.
Throughout the last few weeks, I have watched Afghanistan descend into disarray with sadness, embarrassment, and anger. It truly did not have to turn out like this. As the last of our troops were flown out of Afghanistan this week, I felt the need to share my thoughts with you all on this tragic situation and stain on our international reputation.
Since early July, the United States has been pulling troops out from various posts throughout Afghanistan in an attempt to meet an Aug. 31 deadline. By early August, the Taliban was making rapid gains across the country, culminating in their uncontested capture of Kabul on Aug. 15. The very next day, President Joe Biden, our commander in chief, claimed he had made the right decision and solely blamed the Afghan military and government for the chaos.
Although the Biden administration had intelligence indicating a strong possibility that the Taliban could quickly regain significant portions of the country, it continued to pull American troops and failed to create a plan to assist Americans or our Afghan allies in evacuating out of Afghanistan safely and efficiently. The Biden administration inexplicably decided to abandon our major air base, Bagram, leaving Kabul as our only point of departure. As a result, many American troops had to be brought back to Kabul to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport and begin evacuations.
Under Taliban control, Kabul has already become a breeding ground for terrorism — many terrorists escaped prison during the chaos that has engulfed the city over the past two weeks. Tragically, on Aug. 26, 2021, ISIS Khorasan attacked and killed 13 U.S. service members and up to 170 Afghans at the Abbey Gate, one of the entrances to Hamid Karzai Airport.
This week, I cosponsored a bill to award those 13 service members the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest expression of appreciation given by Congress, in tribute to the families of those 13 brave young men and women. We pray for their peace and comfort in this tragic time.
The withdrawal from Afghanistan was not a simplistic choice between pulling out or continuing our presence as is. We could have, in an orderly and more sensible fashion, withdrawn personnel that kept the most vulnerable secure. While providing close air support to our Afghan allies, we could have shown them that we would continue to support them in their effort to hold off the Taliban. A sane plan would have evacuated all American civilians and identified Afghan allies before we pulled back militarily.
Instead, American citizens, women and children included, were beaten by the Taliban at checkpoints as they attempted sneak to the airport in hopes of being rescued. Many never made it out.
The way the Biden administration left the country was disrespectful, dangerous, and un-American. Instead of prioritizing the protection of Americans, the Biden administration buckled to the Taliban and incredibly, even gave them a list of every American and Afghan ally we were trying to evacuate, including their last known location. Up to 200 Americans and thousands of Afghans, who we promised to protect, have been left in Afghanistan. Their fate now lies in the hands of the Taliban. Already, many of our allies and their families have been brutally beaten and killed.
The chaos of the past month has now left military equipment worth many billions of dollars in the hands of the Taliban. They have begun using this equipment to publish and disseminate propaganda, including a particularly troubling recreation of the U.S. Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima in 1945— however, this time it is the white Taliban flag raised aloft. This is a brazen disrespect to U.S. taxpayers, after losing 2,372 American lives, putting 800,000 individual U.S. troops in harm’s way while rotating through Afghanistan over the past two decades, and spending $2.3 trillion in taxpayer funds.
After abandoning our partners in Afghanistan, who will continue to stand with America? Who will trust our word or commitments? Already, many of our NATO partners are questioning our resolve and commitment to them. The British are openly rebuking our leadership. Parliament has officially held Biden in contempt over this fiasco.
Our hurried withdrawal disregarded our allies and security partners and serves as a striking example of our commander in chief not keeping his promises to those who risk their lives to help the United States. In the future, potential foreign partners may well think twice before taking us at our word. The withdrawal puts our international reputation and national security at risk. It pains me to think that our brave service men and women fought and sacrificed for 20 years just to have a commander in chief completely disregard their work and allow the Taliban back to where they were before 2001.
Although my frustrations are plentiful, I am grateful for the skill, service, and grace our service men and women have shown over the last 20 years in Afghanistan. They have prevented terrorism from reaching our shores because of their effort and sacrifice during that time. That is success. We all thank our military service members, those who were wounded both physically and mentally, as well as our Gold Star Families for your loss that will resonate in your family for generations. We honor and cherish the memory of your loved one and ultimate sacrifice they gave us in the name of freedom.
Now is the time for every American to rally around our service members and veterans. The failures in Afghanistan lie with Washington, not those who have served and sacrificed more than many of us can fathom. We must support those serving now and our veterans more than ever.
I will continue working with the State Department to evacuate our remaining Americans and allies as quickly as possible. I pray for the Afghan people, especially women and girls who can no longer go to school under Sharia law.
Our great nation has had many ups and downs, and mistakes we have lived through and learned from. Let this be one, as we rally and refocus on what makes America and our ideals the greatest hope of liberty throughout the world. I pray the president and his administration will change the current course of action and that our countrymen and allies left behind will be rescued. Let’s restore our standing in the world and strive to be that shining city on a hill, an inspiration of freedom to the multitudes around the globe.