Rep. Liz Cheney said President Biden should have ignored his predecessor’s negotiated May 1 withdrawal deadline with the Taliban and disregarded the advice of military leaders — decisions she claimed has led to Americans “probably being held hostage” in war-torn Afghanistan.
“President Biden is the president of the United States and he’s had no problem in reversing course on other things. He decided he’s going to rejoin the JCPOA. He decided he’s going to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. He’s reversed a number of decisions of the Trump administration,” Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” referring to the formal name of the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“So in this circumstance where absolutely the US national security requirement was to maintain a presence on the ground to help to frankly embolden and train the Afghans who were bearing the brunt of this and fighting for us, President Biden ignored the advice of his military leadership and decided instead he’s going to withdraw,” said Cheney, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
She said the consequence of that decision put Americans under threat by the Taliban as they try to reach the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul to be evacuated.
“The fact that we’re now somehow relying on the Taliban to protect Americans — and the White House is denying what we know is happening on the ground, which is that Americans are being beaten. They’re being prevented from getting to the gates of the airport. And they are probably being held hostage,” Cheney said.
She was referring to comments national security adviser Jake Sullivan made during an appearance earlier on “Meet the Press.”
He said the administration has an agreement with the Taliban about allowing Americans to pass through the checkpoints without being harassed.
“One of the challenges, as you know … has been that once arriving at the airport, the three main gates coming into the airport have been crowded with large numbers of Afghans, just ordinary Afghans who want to get on a plane out of the country,” Sullivan said.
”And so, we’ve been spending the last period, we’re working out various operational solutions to get Americans onto the airbase. We are continuing to work with the Taliban to ensure that any American who faces any challenge getting from their home to the airport, that gets resolved, that they be able to have safe passage. And then it’s up to us to get them inside the airport,” he said.
Cheney, the daughter of Dick Cheney, the vice president in the George W. Bush administration when the US went to war in Afghanistan in 2001, said Biden has created a “catastrophe.”
“What we’re watching unfold on the ground is a complete catastrophe, and to hear the national security advisor say, ’Well, it’s a little complexity, a little turbulence,’ or to suggest this is simply a civil war is fundamentally at odds with reality,” she said. “Our mission in Afghanistan was to deny terrorists a sanctuary, and the Biden decision now to completely withdraw has handed them an entire country, has in fact ensured, not just the Taliban, but al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Haqqani Network, terrorist organizations that want to attack the United States now have an entire country as a sanctuary from which to do so.”
Biden has said he was handcuffed by the deal worked out between the Trump and the Taliban.
“When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor — which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019 — that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on US forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew US forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500,” Biden said in a statement last week.
The president initially extended the withdrawal deadline until Sept. 11, but then accelerated it to Aug. 31.
Trump, speaking at a rally Saturday night in Alabama, said Biden’s pullout looked more like a surrender.
“This will go down as one of the great military defeats of all time and it did not have to happen that way,” Trump said to his supporters. “This was not a withdrawal, this was a total surrender, for no reason.”
“He surrendered our airbase, he surrendered our weapons, he surrendered our embassy,” Trump said.