Grassley Q&A: Afghanistan

Senator Grassley

Q: What’s the State Department telling Americans who are in Afghanistan?

A: Throughout the last week, Iowans have contacted my office about loved ones stuck in Afghanistan. The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan has created a perilous situation for thousands of U.S. citizens and Afghans who helped allied operations in Afghanistan over the last two decades. The U.S. State Department has issued an advisory with guidance for Americans as the security situation continues to unfold. The U.S. only has control of the airport in Kabul and is unable to guarantee safe passage to the airport. U.S. citizens are advised to shelter in place. U.S. citizens who are seeking assistance to depart Afghanistan should complete the Repatriation Assistance Request for each traveler in the group. Fill out the form only once, as soon as possible. Once completed, the online form will be used to notify Americans by email when a departure option is available. In an emergency, the U.S. State Department is advising Americans to call 1 (888) 407-4747 (U.S./Canada) or 1 (202) 501-4444 overseas.

Q: What went so wrong so fast with the troop drawdown in Afghanistan?

A: The Obama, Trump and Biden administrations each signaled intentions to withdraw U.S. military troops in Afghanistan, reflecting consensus among the American people to bring home the troops after two decades in the country. Each time a president telegraphed a specific timeline to withdraw troops, I’ve cautioned how an arbitrary deadline would undermine our mission and empower the Taliban. And now we see what’s happening on President Biden’s watch. The president expedited a symbolic 9/11 deadline, implementing a hasty withdrawal. Also keep in mind the loss of U.S. air support, intelligence and civilian contractor maintenance most likely contributed to erosion of morale among Afghan forces, further jeopardizing security on the ground. Disregarding advice of top military leaders to keep a small military presence has backfired in epic proportions with catastrophic consequences. The botched exit undermines the credibility of the United States with our allies and adversaries, alike. The unfolding disaster, with images of people falling from U.S. military aircraft departing the airport in Kabul, underscores the dire situation for those left behind. With American civilians and some of our Afghani partners still in harm’s way, it’s a national embarrassment and puts an unnecessary stain on our nation’s honor by calling into question our moral obligation to protect those, particularly translators and interpreters, who helped America in Afghanistan. Also consider the plight of the Afghan women and girls whose fate lies in the hands of the Taliban. The messy exit has long-term implications for U.S. national security and opens the door for the Chinese Communist Party to leverage influence in the area. The rapid takeover by the Taliban is a sad commentary on U.S. foreign policy. For many Americans, especially our veterans, it resurrects painful memories of the Fall of Saigon in 1975. And it appears history is repeating itself with Biden’s evacuation in Kabul in 2021. The incompetent drawdown of U.S. troops not only puts stranded U.S. citizens in grave danger, it undermines the 20-year effort by our troops to end Afghanistan’s status as a safe-haven for terrorists. Let’s not forget the untold U.S. military assets seized by the Taliban. I’m asking the Department of Defense for a full accounting on our military equipment in Afghanistan paid for by U.S. taxpayers, including assets seized by the Taliban. On the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, this is a gut punch for the American people.