116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
STONE CITY — Americans in Afghanistan “are in a world of hurt,” Sen. Joni Ernst said Thursday after joining New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in calling on the Biden administration to step up efforts to evacuate them and Afghan allies.
“This is difficult,” Ernst said as she laid the blame on the Biden administration’s lack of preparedness and planning as Afghan defense forces retreated and, in some cases, turned over weapons to the advancing Taliban.
“There were a lot of things we should have been doing months ago that did not get done,” Ernst said at Stone City in rural Jones County, the 80th stop on her annual 99-county tour. “Unfortunately, we can't go back and get the State Department in order. We can't get the administration in order.”
She was more critical of President Joe Biden in remarks at the Iowa State Fair Wednesday, saying that he “should have darn well made sure that our citizens had the opportunity to evacuate and that there was a plan in place.”
Instead, Ernst said, “they drug their feet and now we are in a situation where we may not be able to get all of our American citizens out.”
In their letter, Ernst and Shaheen called on the president to address the quickly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan that threatens the lives of tens of thousands of Afghan partners.
“The Taliban’s rapid ascendancy across Afghanistan and takeover of Kabul should not cause us to break our promise to the Afghans who helped us operate over the past 20 years and are counting on us for assistance,” they wrote in the letter that was joined by 53 senators, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. “American inaction would ensure they become refugees or prime targets for Taliban retribution.”
Now the challenge for the U.S. is to ensure that Americans, regardless of where they are in Afghanistan, can get to Kabul to be airlifted out of the country, Ernst said.
“If they can't get the Kabul, they can't get out,” she said after a tour of the Weber Stone Co. where limestone has been quarried since the 1850s for use for homes, bridge abutments and commercial structures. “You can't get to the airport, you can't get out.”
Without enough troops in Afghanistan to provide safe passage to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, “this administration has basically said, ‘We trust the Taliban, the Taliban will let you come to Kabul,’ ” Ernst said. “We're not finding that's true with a number of the Afghan interpreters.”
The situation is further complicated because the U.S. left Bagram Airfield, as well as the embassy, where special immigrant visas could be processed, she said. Now, that has to be done at the airport.
“We don't know what Americans are trying to get in if the Taliban is stopping them,” Ernst said. “We know that we have to run as many planes out of Kabul as we can. And we need to make sure as many Americans are on those planes as we can.”
Ernst and Shaheen conclude their letter to Biden saying “anything short of full implementation results in grave security implications” and reminded him he has the “strong support of both chambers of Congress to ensure that no additional Afghan lives are needlessly lost.”
Ernst also made stops Thursday at Springsteen Timber Farm near Lisbon and Honey Creek Dairy at Strawberry Point.
Comments: (319) 398-8375; firstname.lastname@example.org