By Sunday, that happened as the Taliban entered the city and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
The country has descended into chaos, with many civilians seeking evacuation at the international airport in Kabul.
Widely circulated footage shows a swarm of Afghans running after a U.S. Boeing C-17 in an apparent attempt to cling to the plane as it took off.
More footage appears to show some individuals who had climbed onto a plane falling off as it was well in the air.
The U.S. has maintained a military presence in Afghanistan since after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in 2001, but a push for America to step out of its involvement has grown with some bipartisan support in recent years.
To the dismay of some of his then-senior advisers, President Donald Trump pushed for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and carried out negotiations with the Taliban to do so.
Near the end of his term in 2020, Trump ordered a sharp cut back on the number of troops stationed in Afghanistan.
President Joe Biden moved forward in the same trajectory of a full withdrawal, with the aim of being completely out of Afghanistan by August 31.
During remarks on the subject in July, Biden argued that “the status quo” of leaving a “bare minimum force” in the country “was not an option.”
When comparisons were made between the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan to the turbulent evacuation of Saigon in 1975, Biden said that “the Taliban is not [. . .] the North Vietnamese army.”
“They’re not — they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable,” said Biden.
But shuttling Americans from the U.S. embassy in Kabul to the airport via helicopter is exactly what happened.
“The truth is, this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” said Biden in a speech on Monday.
“So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up, who fled the country. The Afghan military collapsed. [. . .] If anything, the developments of the past week reinforced that ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan now was the right decision.”
“I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all of that criticism than pass this decision on to another President of the United States,” said Biden.
The president announced that he ordered 6,000 more troops to the region to help with the evacuation, though that has done little to stifle the criticism he faces for the disastrous withdrawal.
Criticism from Lawmakers
State Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), a member of the Navy Reserve who served as an intelligence officer at a forward operating base in Farah, Afghanistan in 2010, is furious with Biden’s handling of the situation.
“We’re still in Japan. We’re still in South Korea. We’re there because we don’t want to let that part of the world turn to hell. Without American influence, that’s what happens,” Schaefer told The Texan. “You leave when the facts on the ground say it’s safe for the United States to leave.”
“You can argue about whether Donald Trump made the wrong decision to begin our withdrawal and to begin conversations with the Taliban, but Donald Trump never, ever let Afghanistan descend into this kind of chaos.”
“Donald Trump never pulled everybody out. The simple truth is Donald Trump left military power on the ground in Afghanistan when he left office. That’s a fact,” said Schaefer.
Other Texas lawmakers at the federal level have likewise been sharply critical of Biden.
“Since the decision was made in May, I think it’s an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “I think he’s gonna have blood on his hands for what they did.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, called for “a thorough accounting” of the chaos in Afghanistan and the Biden administration’s handling of the situation.
“Either there was a complete collapse of American intelligence collecting in the region, President Biden was deliberately misled by his hand-picked national security team, or he knowingly issued statements he knew to be false,” said Cruz.
Though he said has “long called for” a withdrawal from the region, he said that the current administration “tore up” the plan that Trump had negotiated and “instead pursued an incoherent and precipitous abandonment that subordinated realistic planning and military necessity to wishful thinking and political ideology.”
Biden has faced some criticism from within his own party, as well.
In Texas, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez stated, “There’s no way to hide it. The situation in Afghanistan is another shame on this admin.”
“Withdrawal was never going to be easy but it didn’t need to come to this. The US must do everything in its power to help our partners & allies to safety & protect our national security,” said Gonzalez.
The Future of Afghanistan
The president said he has deployed 6,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan “for the purpose of assisting in the departure of U.S. and allied civilian personnel from Afghanistan, and to evacuate our Afghan allies and vulnerable Afghans to safety outside of Afghanistan.”
Earlier this year, Biden signed into law a program that would make some Afghan refugees and their families eligible for special immigration visas (SIVs).
That program will continue and could lead to refugees being temporarily housed at military installations in the country.
According to a report from Fox News, the Pentagon is considering using a military base in Wisconsin as well as Fort Bliss in El Paso as a potential harbor to house Afghan refugees.
“When the time comes, the state should be supportive of Afghan nationals who are brought to the state who have been vetted,” said Schaefer, emphasizing that the refugees brought over to America should be rigorously screened by the State Department.
“But if those questions are answered satisfactorily, then we need to do what we can to stand by people who fought and stood alongside our own American soldiers, many of whom are from Texas.”
Biden said in his speech that he remains committed to ending U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, leaving Afghans to contend with the civil war with the Taliban on their own.
Schaefer warned that the consequences of the withdrawal are “profound” for several reasons, and not just because it could insulate Afghanistan as a possible breeding ground for future terrorism.
“Right next door to Afghanistan is Pakistan, which is a country that has been barely stable over the years—barely stable—under constant threat of internal problems with radical Sunni Muslims. And oh, by the way, Pakistan has nuclear weapons.”
“So what happens when we turn the neighboring country over to a bunch of radical, brutal Islamic fanatics? The profound consequences are unimaginable here,” said Schaefer.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.