Blaine’s Bulletin: Afghanistan

Yesterday, our worst fears came true. After weeks of watching Americans and our allies in Afghanistan scramble to get out while the Taliban effortlessly took control of the country, terrorist attacks killed and injured American servicemembers and dozens of others at the Kabul airport. We are all sickened and angered by the footage we’ve seen, but I can only imagine the pain the families of our soldiers are feeling right now. There is nothing I can write in this column to ease that pain, but those soldiers and their families are in my prayers.  

Yesterday’s attacks are the horrible result of a months’ long failure by the President of the United States. The voluntary forfeiture of key assets like the Bagram Airfield combined with President Biden’s self-imposed and unattainable deadline of August 31st made the Taliban-controlled airport the only place for Americans and our allies to find a way out of the country. The concentration of people made the area the top target of terrorists who only had to pass through a Taliban checkpoint to carry out their attacks. Now Americans are dead, families have been destroyed, and the only place from which our citizens can leave is no longer available to those left in the country.

At the beginning of July, the Administration announced that the U.S. had completely vacated the Bagram Airfield, which had served as our biggest military base in Afghanistan. Included on the massive base is two runways long enough to handle the largest military planes and a prison that held thousands of the world’s most evil terrorists. According to Afghanistan’s then-district administrator for Bagram, Darwaish Raufi, the evacuation was done in the middle of the night and completely blindsided our Afghan partners. When Afghan forces lost control of the airfield to the Taliban, everything left at the base - including weapons and thousands of terrorists still held there - also came under control of the Taliban. Crucially, it eliminated our best option for getting Americans out of the country. That evacuation is one of President Biden’s numerous catastrophic failures. 

As I am writing this, we do not know for sure who carried out the attacks. It is believed the terrorist group ISIS-K either moved through Taliban checkpoints or worked with members of the Taliban to reach the perimeter of the airport. Either way, the Taliban is at the very least partially responsible for the attacks on Americans, and that must be addressed. It is long-past time that President Biden use all military force and resources necessary to secure the safety of Americans still in Afghanistan.  Now he must also hold accountable the terrorists who killed Americans. That accountability must be carried out forcefully and leave no doubt about the United States’ commitment to protect our citizens and allies. 

I think it’s important to note that I do not support endless wars and I doubt many of you do either. Very few of us want our servicemembers overseas indefinitely. After the attacks on September 11th, the Taliban’s protection and support of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda led to our military entering Afghanistan to remove both terror organizations. I don’t believe President Bush or anyone else at the time wanted our troops to still be there 20 years later, but our military leaders have understood it takes years to stabilize a historically unstable part of the world. In many respects, the mission had been successful. While struggling with countless challenges and clearly remaining a dangerous place, the country made major societal advances, largely thanks to efforts of the American military and our allies. For the first time in history, Afghan women were attaining human rights and girls and young women were being educated, getting jobs, and allowed to embrace a more modern way of life. It’s hard to believe that in a matter of weeks that progress has been erased as their oppressors have regained power. 

For 20 years, our troops and their families gave their lives and loved ones to the mission of eradicating al Qaeda, stabilizing Afghanistan, and ensuring it will not be a base for terrorism. Their efforts and incredible sacrifices kept Americans and people around the world safe for two decades and that will never be forgotten. As the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks nears, it is devastating to know the same group who controlled the country and allowed Osama bin Laden to use Afghanistan as his home base when planning and carrying out the attacks on the U.S. are now back in power. The President of the United States and his administration must be held accountable for that fact. They have failed our allies, our men and women in uniform, and the American People.  

My continued prayers are with all members of the U.S. military and Gold Star families who lost loved ones fighting terrorism around the world. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten, and our country is forever grateful for the heroes who have put their lives on the line in the name of freedom.