When terrorists attacked our country on September 11, 2001, we demonstrated the steadfast resolve that unifies us as Americans and exhibited the enduring spirit that guides and shapes our response in times of crisis. Thousands of brave men and women answered the call to military service, boldly fighting to defend and protect the United States and deliver justice for the innocent lives cut short by the brutal actions of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.
In Afghanistan our servicemembers heroically did their jobs, helping prevent more 9/11-style terrorism attacks in the United States in the years that followed. We must always remember and honor their service and sacrifice. They have repeatedly risen to the challenge to confront evolving threats with professionalism and valor.
I understand how extremely demoralizing the images from Kabul are for the men and women who served in the War on Terror and Operation Enduring Freedom. The deteriorating and dangerous conditions were preventable and foreseen. Our withdrawal has been a disaster as a result of poor planning, undervaluing intelligence assessments and denial of reality by the Biden administration. This failure has left a stain on our nation’s reputation.
I am heartbroken for the families of the 2,448 American troops who gave their lives in support of the military operation in Afghanistan as well as the countless others who are living with the seen and unseen injuries of this war. The chaos we are witnessing now does not diminish the sacrifices of our troops, veterans and Gold Star families who deserve our continued support during what is certain to be a difficult time.
As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’ve worked alongside my colleagues to support the needs of veterans once they resume civilian life. Congress improved treatment for traumatic brain injuries and mental health programs as a result of what we’ve learned from veterans of Afghanistan. We’ve expanded benefits and services including improving access to health care, education and enhanced veteran suicide prevention initiatives.
It’s important these heroes know their service has made a real difference and is deeply appreciated. The lack of strategic thinking and poor planning that led to the situation unfolding in Kabul isn’t their fault, but represents a huge disservice to them in light of their work and sacrifices.
Our troops exposed Afghans to American ideals and values in addition to helping provide opportunities for education and basic humans rights for women and girls. These efforts have inspired generations of women to find their voices and realize their full potential.
Given the hasty exit and the new dangers posed by the Taliban takeover, U.S. servicemembers are once again answering their nation’s call. Our priority must be to safely evacuate Americans and protect those who fought alongside our troops for nearly 20 years.
The administration’s strategy has been concerning to say the least, and believing the Taliban will allow our citizens to travel to the airport unharmed is naïve and dangerous. We must ensure the Department of Defense has the capability to successfully execute its missions and help navigate the coming days as we get Americans and Afghan allies to safety.
This catastrophic collapse has undoubtedly weakened our position with our allies and emboldened our adversaries and American credibility is shaken. It could undermine our own national security. In the days ahead, we must remain vigilant and course correct this dangerous situation to protect our citizens, the homeland and our interests.