WASHINGTON — Sen. Jacky Rosen voiced frustration to U.S. military leaders Tuesday over stalled efforts to help evacuate people from Afghanistan and failures by American forces to provide safety to those fleeing the war-torn country during the final days of the withdrawal.
Rosen, D-Nev., told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other generals who testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, that “serious mistakes” were made in the withdrawal.
She said her attempts to work with U.S. Central Command and the Afghanistan Task Force to find and help evacuate people from Afghanistan had at times failed.
Rosen, a member of the Armed Forces Committee, said she was frustrated at the inability of the United States to provide a safe corridor in Kabul for those with State Department approval to get to the airport and leave the war-torn country after the Taliban took over.
Working with constituents
In an interview with the Review-Journal following the hearing, Rosen said she worked on behalf of Nevadans to helped loved ones stuck in Afghanistan.
Although a total of 124,000 people were eventually evacuated, others remain.
Rosen said she would continue to work with the “State Department, Department of Defense, whomever has the responsibility to get everyone who is still in Afghanistan evacuated out and in a safe place.”
And she remains concerned about women in Afghanistan under fundamentalist Islamic rule and conditions imposed by Taliban leaders.
During the hearing, Milley told the Senate panel that he had recommended that 2,500 troops remain to help the Afghan government stave off a collapse to the Taliban, which quickly overtook the country as U.S. military forces left.
Crowds swarmed the airport near Kabul. Chaos ensued. The military leaders said they were surprised the country fell so quickly. Milley said he recommended to President Joe Biden that troops remain past a self-imposed deadline, but Biden stuck with an August departure plan.
Biden has said he was following an agreement negotiated with the Taliban by the Trump administration to withdraw in exchange for a cease-fire. The agreement initially set a May deadline, which was pushed back to August by Biden.
Republicans criticize move
Republicans queried the generals about the recommendation to keep some troops in place, and the decision by Biden to instead withdraw all forces. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., called the withdrawal “botched and disgraceful.”
In the House, Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., called the withdrawal an embarrassment to not only the Biden administration, but also military and intelligence services, and the Trump administration.
The chaotic ending of the 20-year war has drawn criticism from Democrats, too.
In defense of the president, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday that generals and advisers were split on whether to leave some troops in place. And she noted that both Austin and Milley testified that if troops remained, there would have been an attack by the Taliban.
Biden did not want to risk more casualties, she said.
“He ultimately had to make a decision on what was in the best interests of the United States,” Psaki said.
While Rosen is frustrated and concerned about Taliban control of Afghanistan, she defended Biden’s action to protect U.S. military personnel who would have been “in harm’s way had we stayed past the August 31 deadline.”
“I would remind everyone that the Doha agreement was made in the spring of 2020,” Rosen said. “President Trump made that agreement, and President Trump didn’t leave us with many good options.”
But Republicans and President Trump himself have criticized Biden for the withdraw procedure, saying he should have seen to the evacuation of U.S. citizens and government personnel before taking most troops out of the country.