Widespread criticism has been leveled at President Joe Biden for pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan while relying on a promise from the Taliban to allow Americans to leave the country safely – a decision some fear could potentially strand thousands of U.S. citizens to fend for themselves after the August 31 withdrawal deadline (see sidebar).
GOP lawmakers: U.S. military likely will pay for Biden's incompetence
Some angry Republican congressmen are vowing to hold President Joe Biden accountable for the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.
The president has decided not to extend the August 31 deadline to remove all American troops from Afghanistan, meaning the number of troops in that country will go to "zero" on that date. His decision comes despite the fact that thousands of American civilians remain trapped in the country.
In response, a group of Republican congressmen, led by Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), vented their outrage over Biden's handling of the crisis.
"He's been spending the last two days on the telephone, threatening Democrats to vote for tax increases," Scalise said during a news conference today. "Why isn't he working the phones to get every American out of Afghanistan? It's a national – an international disgrace. We're not going to play that game; we're working here hard to find out that answer."
Republican Congressman Michael Waltz (Florida) is a former Army Green Beret who serves on the House Armed Services Committee. He didn't mince words at the news conference, citing an "unbelievable" lack of leadership in the White House.
"When future American soldiers have to go back in to deal with the problem and … with the incompetence of this administration, how many are going to die?" he asked. "Because they're going to have to fight their way through our own [war-fighting] equipment."
The blood of those soldiers, said Waltz, "is and will be on Joe Biden's hands – and this Congress will hold him accountable."
While the White House argues it's "irresponsible" to say Americans will be stranded, the administration seems focused on bringing more than 30,000 Afghan refugees to the United States under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. SIV recipients are generally those who worked for the U.S. military in roles as translators, drivers, and security.
Ira Mehlman is a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. He tells AFN that the chaos in Kabul should raise national security concerns.
"… We don't really know who's getting on those flights right now," he begins. "And the administration has tacitly conceded that by the fact that they are not flying them directly to the United States [anymore] – they are taking them to U.S. bases around the world in order to be vetted, because once you're in the United States it's virtually impossible to leave."
Mehlman points out the Pentagon has warned that the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan will vastly increase terrorism threats in the U.S. He argues that the situation along America's porous southern border only increases those threats.
"We cannot take the risk of having a wide-open border when the Pentagon has said that there are people who may be coming out of Afghanistan who are seeking to take retribution on the United States and the American people," Mehlman states.
"So, this should – in any rational world – force [Biden] to get control of that border quickly."
According to recent statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, "encounters" along the U.S.-Mexico border in July totaled 212,672 – the highest monthly total in 21 years. Total encounters during the first six months of the Biden administration (Feb 21-Jul 21) were 1,035,353 – almost 500% more than the same period during Donald Trump's last year in office.