Several American officials, lawmakers and even former President George W. Bush slammed the Biden administration for its hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan and abandoning thousands of Afghan associates.
The swift fall of Kabul to the Taliban and the US President Joe Biden’s handling of the crisis sparked criticism, anger and frustration among American officials and lawmakers from both Republican and Democratic parties.
Former US President George W. Bush said he and former First Lady Laura Bush feel “deep sadness” over the events unfolding in Afghanistan.
“The Afghans now at the greatest risk are the same ones who have been on the forefront of progress inside their nation. President Biden has promised to evacuate these Afghans, along with American citizens and our allies,” Bush, who started the Afghanistan invasion two decades ago, said in a statement late on Monday.
He also said the US has the legal authority “to cut the red tape for refugees during urgent humanitarian crises.”
“And we have the responsibility and the resources to secure safe passage for them now, without bureaucratic delay,” the former President added.
Bush also praised members of the US army who attended and served in the Afghanistan war since 2001.
As US diplomats hunkered inside, thousands of desperate Afghans thronged Kabul airport where five people were killed on Monday, prompting the US military to temporarily suspend flights to clear the airfield.
In a televised address on Monday, President Biden acknowledged there were concerns about why Afghans had not been evacuated earlier, but said his administration had been discouraged to do so by the Afghan government at the time.
“Part of the answer is some of the Afghans did not want to leave earlier, still hopeful for their country,” Biden said.
However, five US officials, who want to remain on condition of anonymity, told
Reuters that weeks before the Afghan government collapsed, the U.S. military wanted a bigger role in helping to evacuate Afghans at risk because they worked for the United States. The officials believe that a more orderly withdrawal would have been likely.
“We could have done a lot more to help. The administration waited too long,” a military official said.
Although the national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden’s team has been “engaged for months of extensive scenario planning and was ready for this challenge,” a person familiar with the situation said the Biden administration was behind the curve as things deteriorated in Afghanistan.
“Every decision has come too late and in reaction to events that make the subsequent decision obsolete,” the source said.
Local embassy employees who have been at home for weeks were left to make their own way to the airport, the source said, adding that emails were sent to them on Sunday after sporadic gunfire to remain in their houses or some other safe location.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers also weighed in with criticism.
“The withdrawal of US troops should have been carefully planned to prevent violence and instability, and to ensure that the hard-fought progress gained over the past two decades —particularly when it comes to Afghan women and girls — would not be lost,” said Tom Carper, a US senator from Biden’s home state of Delaware and fellow Democrat.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, an opponent of Biden’s withdrawal decision, said it was unlikely that American personnel and at-risk Afghans could be evacuated by Aug. 31 – Biden’s deadline for a full withdrawal. Graham said that “artificial” deadline “will likely result in thousands of Afghans who have helped America being left behind for slaughter.”
Biden announced in April that he would be withdrawing the remaining 2,500 troops from Afghanistan as part of a 2020 deal made with the Taliban under former President Donald Trump.
Military officials recommended against it, but some officials said they felt their views had been heard and the American public was ready to end America’s longest war.
The events of the past week, however, have replaced resigned acceptance with anger.
“Frustrated, disgusted and in disbelief today,” said a military official who served in Afghanistan.
Source: TRTWorld and agencies