Republican Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) continues to take the lead among GOP elected officials in taking the Biden administration to task for the chaotic abandonment of Afghanistan and the ongoing botched evacuation of Americans and U.S. allies from Kabul. And Sunday was no exception, as he blasted the White House during an ABC interview for having "no plan" for withdrawal from the South Asian country and instead relying on "happy talk" from the Taliban.
What has Sasse been doing?
Sasse has been a critical voice from Capitol Hill, leading the calls two weeks ago for President Joe Biden to stop messing around and go get people out of Kabul. The senator urged the president to "damn the deadline" of Aug. 31 and begin to understand who the Taliban really are — and that they cannot be trusted.
Yet Biden and his team have repeatedly relied on the good graces of the terrorist organization — even going so far as to give the group a list of Americans and Afghan allies the U.S. wanted to evacuate, a move one defense official characterized as a "kill list."
Those calculations have proven deadly — most notably last week's ISIS suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport that left at least 13 U.S. troops and dozens of Afghans dead. Just days earlier, the Taliban had released thousands of ISIS prisoners.
In response to the attack, Sasse went after the administration for creating the "nightmare we feared."
Still, the White House has remained dedicated to the Taliban's "red line" date for pullout.
What did Sasse say now?
On Sunday, Sasse took his case to the mainstream media. He laid out the Kabul disaster on ABC's "This Week" and responded to the White House's refusal to extend the deadline.
"There is clearly no plan. There has been no plan," Sasse told host Martha Raddatz.
"People have died and people are going to die because President Biden decided to rely on happy talk instead of reality," he added. "They decided to outsource security around the perimeter of the airport to the Taliban. They passed a list of American citizens and America's closest allies — people who fought alongside us — they passed those lists to the Taliban, relying on them, thinking they could trust on them."
"It was stupid then. It's insane now," Sass continued. "And their plan still seems to be 'let's rely on the Taliban because the Taliban cares a lot about what world opinion thinks of them at French restaurants.'"
So, what do we do now? Raddatz wanted to know.
"We have American citizens who are being left behind. We have American green [card] holders who are being left behind. We have Agfhan allies who are [Special Immigrant Visa] holders," he highlighted, adding, "These people are people to whom we made commitments. We have NATO allies who are livid at us."
And though there might be "some small ways" that some groups — such as the Intelligence Committee on which Sasse serves — can work "around the margins," he said, what the U.S. really needs is a "commander in chief that actually has a big plan and a big way to solve this problem."
Instead, Sasse said, the president has been "disconnected from reality" and is interested only in "happy talk for some political talking point he still wants to execute on in a fight he's been having with Obama administration alums since 2009."
Regardless what's behind the "happy talk," Sasse is sure of what's coming: "The consequences are going to be a return of the Taliban that has been willing to provide safe haven to terrorists in the past, and right now they don't even have the power to make a decision about who they are or aren't going to provide safe haven to."
"We've got al Qaeda and al Qaeda affiliates. We've got the Haqqani network. We've got ISIS-K. We've got Talibani folks themselves who are killers. We have so many different groups who want to turn Afghanistan into the global capital city of jihad," the senator said. "And the administration doesn't have a plan. They've got all this over-the-horizon talk that is laughably shallow. If you actually sit in Intelligence Committee meetings and you hear what 'over the horizon' looks like, it is a pittance compared to what we just had on the ground."
Raddatz, citing all that's going on in Afghanistan now, asked if staying wouldn't put U.S. forces more at risk.
Sasse replied, "Joe Biden put our forces at risk by having no plan for how to evacuate. We are absolutely at risk, and we are at risk because the president has been so unbelievably weak."
"Abandoning Bagram [Air] Base will be read about in military textbooks for decades as one of the stupidest military blunders ever," he added. "And the president has tried to claim that somehow his military advisers were for this. That isn't true. What is true is that the Biden politicals at the White House told the military 'we're going to get down to only a couple hundred folks, and then we're going to get down to zero quickly.'"
U.S. men and women in uniform were doing everything they could to make sure no one was left behind, the senator pointed out.
"The commander in chief should be doing the same," Sasse concluded.