Last Thursday, we marked the deadliest day in a decade for our troops in Afghanistan. Thirteen service members were tragically killed by a terrorist attack. I weep for the heartbreak so many are experiencing and the loss of loved ones. Please join me in praying for their families and loved ones and for all our men and women in uniform. May God bless and protect them.
My office has worked around the clock to assist those who need to evacuate Afghanistan, including American citizens; U.S. green card holders or permanent residents and Afghan partners who stood side-by-side with our troops fighting ISIS, Al Qaida, and the Taliban and whose lives are now in danger because of it. Every American that wants to come home must be evacuated. This afternoon, the Pentagon announced the final evacuation flight has departed Hamid Karzai International Airport. My office has already reached out to Biden Administration officials regarding next steps as we know that Americans and allies have been left behind.
The tragic reality is our withdrawal from Afghanistan was ordered by President Biden without sufficient warning to our allies, Americans living in-country, or a plan for safe passage for the tens of thousands that would need to evacuate. Numerous reports on the ground were that we could not get every American and ally by the President’s deadline. For days, I and many of my Democrat and Republican colleagues have called on President Biden to not stick with this arbitrary date.
I supported H.R. 5704 by Rep. Mike Gallagher, which would have ensured Congress is provided with information about evacuations and prohibits further troop withdrawal until that mission is complete. Unfortunately, our attempt to bring it up for a vote on Tuesday, Aug. 24 was blocked by a procedural move. We continue to push Speaker Pelosi to allow a vote on this bill and should she continue to refuse the request, our conference will pursue a discharge petition to force a vote. This is a procedural move that, if it receives 218 signatures in the House, forces leadership to hold a House-wide vote on a bill. In order to get to 218, we need a few Democrats to sign the petition. I hope the many who have also expressed their opposition to President Biden’s arbitrary withdrawal date and lack of planning will sign the petition and support H.R. 5704.
There are still many unanswered questions regarding the lack of proper planning and contingencies for this withdrawal that would have ensured safe passage for Americans and allies that needed to evacuate Afghanistan. Clear answers from this administration are required, including a precise accounting of all the military assets and equipment we left behind that is now in the hands of the Taliban. I am committed to working with my colleagues to get these answers. I have co-sponsored H.Res. 607 which condemns President Biden’s failure to heed the advice of military and intelligence advisors about the speed and nature of the Taliban offensive, and his rushed timeline which caused a disorganized, chaotic, and abrupt evacuation of United States personnel and Afghan allies.
Additionally, this situation is not a failure of our dedicated men and women in uniform, but a failure of our top policymakers. Please join me in expressing gratitude to our active-duty troops and veterans who have served in Afghanistan, their loved ones and our gold star families. Take time to check in with your fellow warriors and family members who served. We owe them a debt we can never repay. America is safer because of their work, service, and sacrifice over the last 20 years.
Congressman Daniel Webster represents The Villages in the U.S. House of Representatives.