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Iowa Republicans are blaming President Joe Biden for the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan. They’re partly right.
“It is all on President Biden’s shoulders, this rapid and haphazard withdrawal of American troops,” U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a combat veteran, said during a Fox News interview.
Rapid? No. At 20 years, Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history and there never was an achievable goal. It is past time to leave.
Haphazard? Certainly. Leaving Afghanistan was always going to be messy, but it’s hard to see how America could have done a worse job of keeping promises to those who put their own lives at great risk by aiding the United States.
Afghanistan falling back to Taliban control was totally predictable, and so was this current crisis. Tens of thousands of Afghan allies and their families are desperate to flee persecution but the U.S. has not made workable arrangements to assist them.
“No one wants to see the image of a helicopter leaving a rooftop with people dangling from the foot plates. Let us not compound the mistakes of the past with inaction in the present.” — U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, June 2021
Members of Congress from both parties warned the Biden administration this would happen. This spring, shortly after Biden announced plans to draw down troops by Sept. 11, they formed the “Honoring Our Promises Working Group” to advocate for visas and refugee status for U.S. allies in Afghanistan.
“Veterans in Congress understand this firsthand: when we recruited our Afghan friends, we promised to have their backs,” the group, which includes Iowa U.S. Rep Mariannette Miller-Meeks, wrote in a letter to Biden in June.
Miller-Meeks, an Army veteran, raised the issue again during a hearing with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“I know firsthand that no one wants to see the image of a helicopter leaving a rooftop with people dangling from the foot plates. Let us not compound the mistakes of the past with inaction in the present,” Miller-Meeks told Mayorkas in June.
“Yes, indeed, we are very focused on that,” Mayorkas assured her.
Nevertheless, an Associated Press photo over the weekend of a helicopter over the U.S. Embassy in Kabul quickly drew comparisons to a similar scene at the fall of Saigon in 1975, which cemented the U.S. defeat in the Vietnam War.
But what we’ve seen in the past few days is even more shocking than that. Videos published Monday morning showed hundreds, maybe thousands, of Afghans chasing a departing U.S. Air Force plane down a runway, with some trying to cling to the outside in a desperate attempt to escape. Footage appears to show people falling from the aircraft to their certain deaths.
This is not another Saigon moment. It’s Kabul, and it’s worse.
Back then, we evacuated more than 100,000 Vietnamese refugees and many resettled on U.S. territory. This time, we don’t appear willing to take up a project of that magnitude.
Make no mistake, Biden deserves credit for calling the troops home, and so does former President Donald Trump for starting the process. Instigating and prolonging the conflict were bipartisan affairs and it took a president from each party to finally bring the end into sight.
Still, this is the wrong way to end America’s longest war. Bureaucracy and logistics be damned. If Biden had the will to help our imperiled Afghan friends, he would find a way.
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