Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Monday ripped President Joe Biden's speech to the nation on the situation in Afghanistan as "shameful" and a "campaign speech," lambasting the president's administration for failing to come up with a plan to evacuate Afghani allies and American citizens before the Taliban seized control of the country.
Sasse, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN in an interview that Biden failed to explain to the American people what the plan is to evacuate the tens of thousands of Afghani interpreters and other civilians who aided U.S. forces for decades during the conflict with the Taliban.
"The fact that he ran on withdrawal isn't the point. What the American people needed to hear today is that he has a plan for the ongoing national security crisis that's happening at the Kabul airport. It involves Americans, but it also involves a lot of people who fought alongside Americans so that we wouldn't have another 9/11 on our soil," Sasse said.
The Taliban stunned Biden administration officials over the weekend by seizing control of Afghanistan's capital city, Kabul, prompting thousands of civilians to rush to the city's international airport in an attempt to flee the country. Chaos erupted at the airport as Afghans crowded the tarmac, some clinging to departing U.S. C-17 cargo jets and then falling to their deaths after the planes took off.
In the latest development at the airport, as many as 600 members of Afghan security forces are helping U.S. troops provide security for evacuation efforts, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
At a news briefing, U.S. Army Major General William Taylor said Tuesday there will be more than 4,000 U.S. troops at the airport by the end of the day and that there have not been any "hostile interactions" with the Taliban.
The current plan is to have one flight taking off from the airport every hour.
In his speech, Biden argued that Afghan leaders had proven unwilling or incapable of continuing the fight against the Taliban. The president said that his national security team was "clear-eyed about the risks" of withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan and that continued U.S. presence in the country wouldn't have made a difference if Afghans could not fight their own civil war.
"American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves," Biden declared.
But just one month ago on July 8, the president assured the American people, "The likelihood there's going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely." In April, after announcing that U.S. troops would withdraw, Biden said that Afghan security forces would "continue to fight valiantly ... at great cost."
Sasse said that Republican and Democratic lawmakers for months had been "screaming at Biden Administration officials" for details on the withdrawal plan.
"They have told us that they were sure that everything would be fine through the pause and fighting season over the winter, and if the Taliban ever mounted some significant offensive that moved toward Kabul, it wouldn't happen until next spring. And we repeatedly — again, I mean we, Republicans and Democrats — raised voices at Biden Administration officials, saying, 'Why are you so sure of this, and what is your contingency plan?' And they would sort of murmur and say, 'Well, we don't want to embarrass the President. So, we don't want to go into great detail. But clearly, you're being too pessimistic, but of course we have a contingency plan,'" Sasse said.
"They didn't have a contingency plan, and the reason so many of the Afghan security forces melted is because the Biden Administration messaged over and over again this nonsense about a negotiation with the Taliban, off in some Belgian restaurant somewhere, and they messaged repeatedly that they were not going to support our allies in the moment of crisis," he continued.
Sasse criticized Biden for blaming the previous administration and the Afghan people for handing him this situation.
"There's a lot of blame that this administration puts on the last one because they began negotiating with the Taliban. I get that. But today what the president did is he pivoted and started attacking Afghans, including moms and dads who were at the edge of that airport with their kids. Why are they there? Why did they come to that airport? Because our troops promised them that the U.S. would never just turn tail and cowardly have another Saigon-like event," Sasse said.
"This is worse than Saigon. What is happening at the Karzai International Airport today is a more shameful, lower moment in U.S. history than 1975 in Saigon, and Biden comes out of his bunker, he comes back from Camp David trying to do a campaign photo-op speech, and he attacks the Afghan people, who are at the edge of that airport because we promised them security. They fought with us, and we said that they would be secure, and his Administration undermined the confidence of those people fighting, and they didn't believe they were going to have air support, and then we bizarrely in one of the great blunders in military history evacuated Bagram Air Force Base in the night. Why? Why would we have evacuated Bagram Air Force Base?
"The Biden Administration undermined the confidence of the fighters in Afghanistan."