One year after Kabul fell to the Taliban, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a veteran of the Global War on Terror, reflected on the days leading up to and the weeks following President Biden’s haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan. Ernst recalled a number of promises made, and then broken, by the Biden administration.
“I want to direct the Commander in Chief to reflect on a series of commitments he made to the American people before and during his reckless exit.
“On August 19, 2021, President Biden promised U.S. troops would remain on the ground until every American who wanted to leave Afghanistan was evacuated.
“On August 26, 2021, President Biden promised to hunt down and avenge the deaths of thirteen servicemembers killed-in-action by ISIS-K in Kabul.
“In a speech to the United Nations on September 21, 2021, the President promised his administration would hold the Taliban accountable to protect the rights of Afghan women.
“[…] The Commander in Chief failed to uphold his word on all three fronts, and American security and prosperity have suffered as a result of his broken promises.
“Today in Afghanistan, Americans who want to come home remain left behind, and the administration’s lack of transparency concerning both the number and desire of Americans trapped in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan is alarming.
“The President and members of his Cabinet repeatedly claimed the number of Americans who wanted out of Afghanistan was roughly one-hundred – that number was spouted from September 2021 through the beginning of this year. Americans are still stuck in Afghanistan today.
“There’s no way around it: President Biden broke his promise to the Americans who remain, and their families anxiously awaiting their return.
“Americans have lived and traveled abroad with assurances that the United States would come to their aid in the event of a conflict.
“No matter how far away, the U.S. is expected to have the backs of its citizens – our withdrawal from Afghanistan was a cut-and-run approach that greatly damaged that guarantee.
“If the world’s greatest superpower cannot locate and extract its own citizens from the clutches of seventh-century thugs and warlords, then far greater tests of our sovereignty, security, and prosperity will only loom larger.
“As we approach the anniversary of the haphazard withdrawal, there is an open wound hurting our ability to deter the actions of our adversaries.
“President Biden promised vengeance on the terrorists who killed thirteen Americans – including one from my hometown of Red Oak, Iowa – at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
“He told the American people, ‘The United States will never rest. We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down to the ends of the Earth, and we will — you will pay the ultimate price.’
“Again, the Commander-in-Chief’s rhetoric does not match his actions; the U.S. military has not targeted or conducted any counterterrorism strikes against ISIS-K in Afghanistan since America’s withdrawal on August 31, 2021.
“Those who planned the cowardly act remain at large.
“It’s not like ISIS-K is holed up in the Hindu Kush mountains, away from population centers. At least 26 terrorist attacks, many of which ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for, have struck the Afghan people in metropolitan Kabul since our withdrawal.
“Our enemies are not hiding, but far too often, America is.
“We’re also stuck with a largely unrealized over the horizon counterterrorism strategy that has not deterred the resurgence of terrorists or avenged our lost warriors.
“Our military and covert operators’ recent strike was welcome and long overdue, but the strike demonstrates a capability rarely employed and a posture toward terrorism far too inexact.
“It was President Biden, after all, who said last August that al-Qaeda was gone from Afghanistan. That’s clearly not the case.
“Ensuring that al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri will never harm another American was a necessary action, but the strike has raised serious questions about the security situation in Afghanistan.
“The President’s so-called, and much-promised, over the horizon counterterrorism strategy has not been the deterrent it was promised to be. Instead, we are seeing a growing threat emanating from Afghanistan.
“This is the first U.S. military strike in Afghanistan since America left on August 31 of last year. In the meantime, ISIS-K fighters are flowing into the country at alarming rates, while al-Qaeda and the Taliban have clearly been working together for the past year.
“At the very least, the Taliban and Haqqani network gave al-Zawahiri and his thugs safe haven – demonstrating ongoing Taliban collusion with terrorists.
“A lone strike does not demonstrate a developed capacity to prevent further coordination that threatens American security.
“Not only has the U.S. capacity to protect the homeland been greatly damaged, the President’s intent to champion human rights as a centerpiece of this Administration’s foreign policy is also in shambles.
“Last fall, the president repeatedly claimed Afghan women were a linchpin of his foreign policy priorities in the region. Yet today, after twenty years of constitutional democracy and the advancement of civil rights, the Taliban has unraveled significant hard-won gains for the women of Afghanistan.
“The Taliban enforce a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, prohibit women from working, from attending secondary school, and from traveling any distance without being accompanied by a male family member.
“Most recently, the Taliban has required all women cover themselves from head to toe in the burqa.
“Yet, it is reported that the President’s team continues to bargain with the Taliban concerning diplomatic recognition, potential coordination with the U.S. intelligence community, and access to 3.5 billion dollars in held currency to the Taliban, despite these actions.
“Extending official diplomatic engagement and facilitating access to funding without guaranteed and meaningful liberties for women and girls, will legitimize Taliban rule and further subject women to a brutal regime.
“Any further effort to surrender leverage to the Taliban is a candid reflection of the Biden administration’s failure to remedy its own hypocrisy regarding human rights.
“The administration’s abandonment of Americans, inability to serve justice for our soldiers killed in action, impassive counterterrorism operations, and ignorance of the human rights disaster they precipitated in Afghanistan have substituted sound strategy for an ad hoc response of willful negligence.
“And they know it.
“The Department of State and Department of Defense under President Biden have refused to cooperate with the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
“The President’s neglect is most profoundly demonstrated through his Administration’s lack of controls on billions of dollars of taxpayer and frozen funds marked for humanitarian aid that have found their way into the Taliban’s coffers.
“Since the Taliban and Haqqani Network, the two groups ruling Afghanistan, are Specially Designated Global Terrorists, existing law compels the Administration to disclose the risk of taxpayer money slipping into the hands of these two terror groups.
“The licenses issued by the Treasury Department over the last year extend far beyond acute humanitarian aid for food and medicine; they expand the authorization of funding for activities from endangered species research to direct payments to support governing institutions controlled by the Taliban and the Haqqani Network.
“I led fifteen other senators in asking the Biden administration to detail the total financial support provided to Afghanistan and an honest assessment of the taxes, fees, and import duties siphoned by the Taliban.
“More than six months later, we are still waiting for a comprehensive answer.
“This is completely unacceptable in light of recent reporting that Taliban authorities are interfering with the delivery of humanitarian aid, despite a pledge to the United Nations last fall that they would not.
“The people of Afghanistan continue to suffer from food insecurity while the Taliban are enjoying the spoils of America’s generosity. Numerous requests for a detailed accounting have gone unanswered by the Treasury and State Departments.
“Leaving Americans behind, failing to avenge the death of thirteen servicemembers, and abdicating your promises to Afghan women and children do not deter threats from our shores.
“In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on October 26, 2021, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy stated that ISIS-K and al-Qaeda have the intent to conduct operations against the United States, and that ISIS-K could generate that capability in six to twelve months and al-Qaeda within one to two years.
“Six months has come and passed, and we have yet to learn how Team Biden will protect our citizens from this threat at home or abroad.
“In the absence of such a framework, threats to our national security grow by the day, risking the lives of Americans at home and abroad.”