By Dallas Morning News
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Heated discussion follows Afghanistan drawdown


Last updated 8/17/2021 at 4:05pm

WASHINGTON — Nearly two decades after Texas’ George W. Bush led the nation to war in Afghanistan to root out terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks, the Taliban were suddenly back in control Monday after a chaotic U.S. withdrawal.

Texas politicians in both parties were pointing fingers.

They decried the bungled drawdown and tragic miscalculations about the Afghan government’s ability to hold out against insurgents. For those who’d demanded withdrawal for years, the humiliation of a rout dampened the joy they’d expected when a seemingly endless conflict came to an end.

“This was a huge error on the part of our national leadership, starting with the president,” Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, said Monday at Camp Swift, a Texas National Guard training center east of Austin.

Cornyn accused Biden of leaving in place “no transitional support for our Afghan partners” and warned that terrorists will thrive in the newly created power vacuum.

“It is a painful lesson that we’ve learned that what happens in Afghanistan does not stay in Afghanistan,” Cornyn said. “There’s no question that al-Qaeda and ISIS and other terrorist organizations will use this as an opportunity to reconstitute themselves and be a threat not only in the region, but to the American homeland.”

Late Monday, Bush issued a statement focused on the need to evacuate Afghan allies.

“The Afghans now at the greatest risk are the same ones who have been on the forefront of progress inside their nation,” he said. “In times like these, it can be hard to remain optimistic. Laura and I will steadfastly remain so. Like our country, Afghanistan is also made up of resilient, vibrant people.”

In a nationally televised address hours earlier, President Joe Biden conceded that “this did unfold more quickly than we anticipated.”

But he argued that former President Donald Trump had left him no viable option after cutting the number of troops from 15,000 to 2,500 over the span of his presidency, and in any case, “there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces.”

“I inherited a deal that President Trump negotiated with the Taliban,” Biden said. “How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan’s civil war?”

He insisted that the U.S. objectives had been achieved years ago: find the terrorists behind Sept. 11 and degrade the future threat.

“Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to be nation-building,” he said.

He made the same point in mid-April when he set a Sept. 11 withdrawal deadline.

Trump embraced Biden’s deadline at the time, complaining mainly that he’d already waited too long.

“Getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do,” Trump said then, boasting that “I made early withdrawal possible.”

The collapse of the Afghan government has given Republicans fresh hope for a big win in the 2022 midterms.

Trump called it “the most embarrassing military outcome in the history of the United States.”

Even in his own party, Biden had few defenders.

Texas Democrats focused on the humanitarian mission of rescuing Afghan translators, women’s rights activists and others now facing execution.

Sen. Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who chairs the intelligence committee, called the situation “devastating” and vowed “tough but necessary questions about why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces.”


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