Congressional Republicans were livid Monday after the Biden administration announced that the evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan had ended with hundreds of US citizens and thousands of America’s Afghan allies left behind.
“Joe Biden left behind Americans,” seethed Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Twitter. “He left behind vetted Afghan allies who risked their lives for our soldiers. A disgraceful lack of leadership from an incompetent president.”
US Central Command (CENTCOM) chief Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie revealed that the last US C-17 had departed at 11:59 p.m. Monday Kabul time (3:29 p.m. ET). He further acknowledged that “we did not get out everybody we had wanted to get out” and estimated that the number of Americans in need of rescue was in the “very low hundreds.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken later estimated that “under 200, and likely closer to 100” Americans remain in Afghanistan who want to leave. He did not say how many Afghans who assisted US-led NATO forces during the 20-year conflict with the Taliban – including those who applied for or had received Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) or permanent residency in the US – were also left to fend for themselves.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), repeated his call for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to call Congress back into session — a request that has so far been rebuffed.
“President Biden is preparing to leave Americans behind in Afghanistan at the mercy of terrorists,” McCarthy tweeted. “Speaker Pelosi must bring Congress back to prohibit the President from withdrawing our troops until every American is out.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) tweeted that Biden had decided to “quit and leave our citizens and allies behind.”
“Joe Biden has put Americans last since the day he was sworn into office,” added Blackburn — who called last week for President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley to resign or face impeachment. “Again, he needs to resign.”
“This operation is not over until every American is out of harm’s way,” Blackburn insisted in a third tweet.
Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), accused Biden of ending the evacuation operation early and “abandoning American citizens still on the ground desperately needing evacuation!”
“IF BIDEN REFUSES TO RESIGN, HE MUST BE IMPEACHED!” Hice tweeted. “This is an absolute disgrace!
Though the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline had been known for several weeks, the White House had played coy on the question of whether all US forces had to be out by 12:00 a.m. on that day, or nearly 24 hours later at 11:59 p.m. Even as the clock ticked toward midnight in Kabul Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to clarify, saying she was “not going to get into operational details of when we will continue our retrograde efforts. That’s led by the Department of Defense and our team on the ground.”
Meanwhile, Biden emphatically said “Yes” twice when asked by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an Aug. 18 interview if he was committed to making sure US forces stay until “every American who wants to be out, is out”.
“If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out,” the president vowed.
“A promise from Joe Biden is worthless,” Cotton, a veteran of the Afghanistan War, subsequently tweeted Monday night.
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) called the abandonment of US citizens “shameful” and warned Biden that he had “better move heaven and earth to get every last American home safely.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) similarly blasted the administration’s handling of the withdrawal as “horrific and unacceptable, while another Afghan War vet, Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), warned on Twitter that the conflict “has not ended. It’s been extended.”
“Terrorism in Afghanistan won’t stay in Afghanistan,” he added. “It will spread like a cancer and follow us home.”
Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), who lost both his legs in Afghanistan, tweeted that Biden had “left Americans and our Afghan allies behind. Completely unforgivable. He must resign.”
“The United States just completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan with many Americans still stuck behind enemy lines desperate to get out, and $85 billion in US weapons and equipment now in Taliban hands,” tweeted Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY). “This is a historic disgrace of epic proportions ordered by President Biden.”
Zeldin’s fellow New York Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik, blasted the administration by saying the decision to wind up the withdrawal without ensuring all US citizens were accounted for was “unacceptable and un-American.”
Biden himself issued a paper statement Monday, leaving McKenzie and later Blinken to give public remarks about the withdrawal.
The president argued that military leaders had unanimously recommended that he stick to the Aug. 31 deadline despite reports that hundreds of Americans were trying to make their way to evacuation flights out of Kabul’s international airport.
“Their view was that ending our military mission was the best way to protect the lives of our troops, and secure the prospects of civilian departures for those who want to leave Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead,” Biden said.
The White House added that Biden would speak to the nation at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.