House Democrat on Afghanistan pullout: ‘This is a catastrophe’
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday that the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan under President Biden is a “catastrophe” and that the administration “owed our Afghan allies of 20 years a real plan.”
Langevin’s comments in a Foreign Policy opinion piece marked one of the sharpest rebukes from a member of Biden’s party over the chaos unfolding in Afghanistan as the Taliban has taken over faster than expected with U.S. troops leaving the country.
The Rhode Island Democrat wrote that he had asked a senior Defense Department official in May if the U.S. military would return to Afghanistan if the country’s government asked for assistance. The official responded, “I am reluctant to get into a hypothetical,” according to Langevin.
The lawmaker further noted that he had signed a letter with fellow members of Congress to Biden recommending ways to improve stability in Afghanistan, but they never got a response.
“I suppose we are now experiencing the consequences of not getting ‘into a hypothetical.’ Public executions and forced marriages are reportedly back. People are fleeing. The Taliban are in Kabul, and the government has fallen. This is a catastrophe,” Langevin wrote in Tuesday’s op-ed.
“This negligence was par for the course for the last U.S. administration. I am disappointed to see it now,” he continued.
“At minimum, the Biden administration owed our Afghan allies of 20 years a real plan. They also owed it to our military service members and their families, particularly the men and women in uniform and their families who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Not to mention the women and girls of Afghanistan who are now experiencing a devastating new reality.”
Langevin called on the Biden administration to outline ways to ensure terrorist groups like al Qaeda don’t regroup in Afghanistan and to “increase our efforts hundredfold” for evacuating Afghan allies.
“Critics may say the past few months were an indictment of our ability to train the Afghan military. I would say instead: Look at what 2,500 U.S. soldiers, intelligence, and air support working with the Afghan military were able to hold back for so many years. The consequences of our decision to abandon Afghanistan are now on full display for the world to see. It didn’t have to be this way,” Langevin wrote.
Langevin is now among a handful of congressional Democrats who have not minced words when it comes to assessing Biden’s handling of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), a former Marine who served in Iraq, called the situation in Afghanistan a “disaster” that was “avoidable.”
“The time to debate whether we stay in Afghanistan has passed, but there is still time to debate how we manage our retreat. For months, I have been calling on the Administration to evacuate our allies immediately — not to wait for paperwork, for shaky agreements with third countries, or for time to make it look more ‘orderly,'” Moulton said in a statement Sunday.
The Biden administration is working to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghan allies who are at risk of retaliation from the Taliban. Evacuation flights were paused on Monday as officials tried to secure the airport in Kabul, where images of people crowding the tarmac ricocheted around the globe, before the flights resumed.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Tuesday on CNN that about 5,000 to 9,000 people per day could be moved from Afghanistan using military aircraft.
“We have the capacity to literally move thousands per day once we get everybody on the ground, all the security troops that we need there,” Kirby said.