Morgan Griffith: Botched exit
Years ago, the U.S. completed its original goals of destroying al Qaeda and ensuring that Afghanistan would not be a staging ground for trans-national Islamic extremist groups. That is why I have long supported an orderly withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
However, President Biden and his Administration have botched America’s exit. The problem is not withdrawing American troops, but that the President’s team did not adequately develop plans before moving forward.
What has the President been doing since his April announcement to withdraw? Playing tiddlywinks in the Rose Garden?
Due to the Biden Administration’s gross misjudgment, we now have American citizens and Afghan allies who are needlessly in harm’s way. This disastrous departure made it necessary to redeploy thousands of U.S. troops to address the chaotic situation in Kabul.
Many in Congress believed that with the removal of American troops, President Ashraf Ghani’s government would not likely survive for long. For years, it has been publicly known, that endemic corruption in the Afghan government created an unsustainable status quo.
According to numerous Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reports, U.S. funds were regularly stolen by corrupt Afghan officials and generals. For instance, the problem of so-called “ghost soldiers” was well known to SIGAR for years. Millions in U.S. security aid were being spent on non-existent Afghan soldiers, at least 50,000 of the alleged Afghan Army and police personnel were known not to exist.
However, I believe that Afghans, who risked their lives by assisting American troops and U.S. personnel, should be evacuated safely. One such opportunity is facilitated by the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which since 2006, has allowed vetted Afghan and Iraqi Department of Defense contractors, including interpreters, translators, and security personnel, to immigrate to the United States.
Congress knew this could be a difficult exit and passed legislation to help be better prepared. As early as June 29, 2021, my House colleagues and I passed H.R. 3385, which aimed to streamline the medical examination process for SIV applicants.
H.R. 3985 passed the House with my support on July 22, 2021. This bill would further simplify the SIV application process as well as increase the number of visas available through the program.
Finally, on July 29, 2021, I voted in favor of the Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, which was approved by the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Biden on July 30, 2021. This legislation incorporated the language of the previous two bills described above.
While Kabul was falling to the Taliban, I was on a Members-only call with top Administration officials, Secretary of State Blinken, Secretary of Defense Austin, and General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On the call I learned that they were processing visas at the airport.
Later, I learned that only a small fraction of the visas for those eligible Afghans who aided us had been processed. Seriously?
It baffles me as to why the Administration removed troops from Afghanistan before ensuring the airport and embassy were secured and a significant number of the visas were processed. Clearly, there was no comprehensive plan to safely evacuate U.S. citizens, the Afghans who assisted the U.S., non-governmental organizations, etc.
This is not a partisan problem. This is a Biden problem.
In a July 8 press conference, Biden rejected the possibility that the Taliban would gain control of Afghanistan so quickly. When the press stated and asked the President to clarify, “Your own intelligence community has assessed that the Afghan government will likely collapse.” Biden replied, “That is not true. They did not – they didn’t – did not reach that conclusion.”
And yet, just five weeks later, that is exactly what happened.
Why was there not a better defensive strategy in place? Why was there not a comprehensive list of all who would need to be evacuated from Afghanistan – Americans in the country, our Afghan allies, and other individuals? Why was President Biden radio silent for six days while the Taliban quickly and methodically overtook the Afghan government?
President Biden’s weak leadership has damaged America’s credibility throughout the world. Americans deserve better and are right to expect better from the President.
While I am disappointed in the Administration, I will continue to monitor the developing situation to determine what I can do to help ensure the safety of as many Americans and Afghan allies as possible in the wake of this Biden-made disaster.
Lastly, and most importantly, thank you to our brave service men and women and veterans who keep and have kept America safe. Should you know a veteran needing mental health services during this time, please feel free to contact my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.
Morgan Griffith represents the Ninth District of Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives.