Republican Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday warned that the government's collapse in Afghanistan had "needlessly endangered Americans and our allies" and pledged that Massachusetts is prepared to help refugees fleeing the country now under Taliban control.
In a pair of morning tweets, Baker criticized "mismanagement" in the buildup to the crisis that has unfolded in recent days, when the Taliban seized cities in Afghanistan and evacuation flights departed Kabul. He did not specifically name who he believes is at fault for the situation.
"The mismanagement that led to the catastrophe unfolding in Afghanistan has needlessly endangered Americans and our allies," he said. "I am deeply thankful for the men and women who have fought to protect the homeland and pray for the safety of all those now serving."
"Massachusetts is ready to assist Afghan refugees seeking safety and peace in America," he added.
Dozens of state lawmakers have signed onto a letter urging their federal counterparts to make every effort possible to help Afghan allies evacuate the country.
Also on Tuesday, Democratic Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq, said at a press conference that the U.S. mishandled its departure from Afghanistan, while adding that it's not too late to save thousands of innocent lives.
"I think there's a lot of blame to go around...," he said. "There will be time to investigate what went wrong, to reassess the intelligence assessments that were clearly off, and whether it was the right strategic decision for America. But right now we need to save lives, and it's still in our power to do so."
For months, Moulton said he had called on the Biden Administration to immediately start evacuating Afghanistan in advance of the withdrawal of American troops.
"The fact that the State Department just announced today they are looking at spots in America to put these refugees illustrates the utter lack of operational planning. We've known for years that they are coming," he said.
"The president needs to make it clear that we will see this operation through, we will continue evacuating our citizens and allies until they're all out and not quit until the mission is done," Moulton added. "While the president has not yet made that commitment, I'm heartened by the progress I've heard form the administration and the pace at which we're now evacuating our allies."
"Right now America is putting a lot of hope in the idea that somehow we've found a kinder, gentler Taliban. I don't see any evidence in the last 20 years to believe that. I think the administration is doing a remarkable job at keeping that threat at bay right now, but we cannot count on that to continue. That's why it is so imperative that everyone focus on the evacuation."
Veterans and families who have lost loved ones in Afghanistan held a candlelight vigil in Boston's Seaport Monday night as they tried to come to grips with the way America's longest war drew to a close.
The Massachusetts Fallen Heroes vigil at the Fallen Heroes Memorial was held in honor of those who served in Afghanistan and never came home. It was an emotional evening for those who served or have family members who served as they deal with a withdrawal proceeding that they said has been painful to watch.
"I mean, I can speak for me personally, and I think a lot of people are saying that today, 'What was it all for?' And I think the reason everyone's saying, 'What was it for,' was because of the way we exited, it was the strategy and it was the process," Massachusetts Fallen Heroes Executive Director Dan Magoon said. "And that's what is the slap in the face, so to speak, to a lot of men and women that put so much in that country."
After 20 years, President Joe Biden decided to finally withdraw U.S. combat forces. Emboldened by the withdrawal, Taliban fighters swept across the country last week and captured the capital, Kabul, on Sunday, sending U.S.-backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country.
Biden doubled down on his strategy to pull out of Afghanistan Monday, but acknowledged that the Taliban had achieved a much faster takeover of the country than his administration had expected. The rapid and chaotic fall of Afghanistan has local veterans and grieving family members asking themselves what the sacrifice was for.
Biden has come under fire for the tactic, both nationally and locally, including among New England politicians who described the retreat a "disaster."
Democratic Rep. Jake Auchincloss, who represents Massachusetts' fourth district, defended Biden's decision and pinned the blame both on former President Donald Trump for failed attempts to broker a peaceful withdrawal, and on the Afghan government that lost the faith of its people.
"I believe this president is making the right decision," Auchincloss told NBC10 Boston. “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, who served as a marine platoon commander in Afghanistan in 2012, said he plans to question national security officials at a congressional briefing two weeks from now.
Boston College Political Scientist Dr. Peter Krause believes the criticism of Biden comes not from his commitment to leave Afghanistan, but rather the execution of it.
"I don’t think anyone foresaw that all of these cities would collapse so quickly, that the Afghan National Army would put down their weapons in many cases," Krause said. "So that’s where the criticism comes in and, I think, rightly so.”
While the U.S. vows to continue its fight against terrorism, experts said Biden’s decision will resonate for years to come.
“Just like with Vietnam, no one wants to be the president that ‘lost Afghanistan,’" Krause said. “And for whatever reason, it’s the person who kind of pulls out at the end that is seen as the loser, even if the decisions that were made by prior administrations are potentially the ones that missed the opportunity.”