New England lawmakers who support the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan are slamming the way the Biden Administration is handling it.
“To say that today is anything short of a disaster would be dishonest. Worse, it was avoidable," Congressman Seth Moulton said on Sunday night. "The time to debate whether we stay in Afghanistan has passed, but there is still time to debate how we manage our retreat.”
The Taliban swept into Kabul Sunday after capturing every other major city in the country. President Ashraf Ghani fled, bringing a stunning end to a two-decade campaign in which the U.S. and its allies had tried to transform Afghanistan.
Thousands of people packed into the Afghan capital's airport Monday, rushing the tarmac and pushing onto planes in desperate attempts to flee the country after the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government. The U.S. Embassy has been evacuated and the American flag lowered, with diplomats relocating to the airport to aid with the evacuation.
The crisis prompted an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday. The White House is defending the decision to withdraw. President Biden is expected to address the nation in the next few days.
In the meantime, thousands of U.S. soldiers are being deployed to maintain control of the airport in the capital. Local veterans and other New England lawmakers are criticizing the chaotic situation.
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey said he is monitoring the situation and applauded Biden's decision to end America's longest war.
Vermont Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders took to Twitter Sunday, writing that the country needs to evacuate allies and "open our doors to refugees."
New Hampshire Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster described the developments as "deeply troubling," and called for the U.S. government to take "strategic steps to ensure the region does not return to a haven for terrorists," and to ensure safety for all Afghan citizens.
Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Burt Comfort, of Upton, Massachusetts, said he’s not surprised at the Taliban's quick progress and disagrees with the decision to leave.
"Now tell me how the mission was accomplished when -- in a matter of days -- the Taliban overtakes the country," retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Burt Comfort said. "How is the terrorist threat eliminated?"
Democratic Rep. Jake Auchincloss, who represents Massachusetts' fourth district, defended Biden's decision.
"I believe this president is making the right decision," Rep. Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass., told NBC10 Boston. "We cannot ask Americans to fight a war that the Afghans would not fight for themselves."
Auchincloss said he plans to question national security officials at a congressional briefing two weeks from now.
A Marine veteran who led patrols through villages contested by the Taliban in 2012, Auchincloss said he understands why fellow veterans are frustrated by what is happening on the ground.
“The anger and the frustration that fellow veterans feel watching these scenes unfurl, and I feel them as well, should be directed first and foremost at the national security officials for the last two decades who have lied to the American people about the viability of the counterinsurgency mission,” said Auchincloss.
The current situation creates an opportunity for the Afghans and Afghan leadership to seize hold of their nation and forge it by holding on to Kabul, Auchincloss said.
Asked if he thought the government could hold on to the capital, the congressman replied, “Yes, I do think they can.”
Auchincloss said the U.S. spent 20 years and $2 trillion to build up a 300,000 person army and air force. The counterterror mission in Afghanistan was successful, he said, but a counterinsurgency mission could have never succeeded.
He also said that Biden inherited the situation from former President Donald Trump and that Afghan leadership let the country down.
"We bought Afghanistan a 300,000-strong army. We purchased for them an air force. But you can't buy will and you can't purchase leadership," Auchincloss said. "Front-line Afghan troops were let down by the incompetence and corruption of Afghan central government leaders who couldn't even send them enough bullets and rations to hold back the Taliban advance."
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“We would win every battle,” said Auchincloss. “The United States military cleaned the Taliban’s clock every time they got into a skirmish and yet we would still lose the war because counterinsurgency is the act of building a nation and only the people of that nation can build it.”
U.S. President Biden authorized additional U.S. troops for deployment to Afghanistan, according to a statement from a defense official. That raises to roughly 5,000 the number of U.S. troops to ensure what Biden calls an “orderly and safe drawdown” of American and allied personnel. U.S. troops will also help in the evacuation of Afghans who worked with the military during the nearly two-decade war.
The last-minute decision to re-insert thousands of U.S. troops into Afghanistan reflected the dire state of security as the Taliban seized control of multiple Afghan cities in a few short days.