The events that unfolded in Afghanistan over the last few weeks have been a tragedy.
It was devastating to hear the news that thirteen servicemembers were killed – the deadliest day in Afghanistan in over a decade – outside the airport gates in Kabul while assisting Americans and Afghan allies urgently trying to flee the country.
It was heartbreaking to watch desperate Afghans clinging to C-17s and fearful mothers passing their infants off to our servicemembers in a last-ditch effort to save them from a life under the Taliban.
It was disappointing to witness the United States’ decades-long counterterrorism and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan fall to the Taliban in mere days.
Most Americans agree that we could not stay in Afghanistan forever – a military withdrawal from Afghanistan was inevitable.
But how we left was disastrous.
The Biden Administration engaged in a lack of planning and series of poor decisions. Every official responsible for this failure must be held accountable.
Last week, I sent a letter to President Biden pressing him on his plans to evacuate Americans out of Afghanistan following the arbitrary August 31st deadline, to ensure remaining U.S. military equipment is reclaimed from the Taliban, and to assist Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders and other at-risk Afghans left behind.
As this catastrophe unfolded, there were however a few glimmers of hope in humanity. Our troops stepped up. In Afghanistan, U.S. special operations veterans carried out daring missions to save Afghan allies. Back home, my office worked around the clock to help South Dakotans who knew Americans and allies on the ground urgently request to evacuate with the State Department and Defense Department. We are actively assisting over 100 individuals and were successful in evacuating 20 individuals who were either lawful permanent residents, SIV applicants, or at-risk Afghan allies.
Despite the failure of our withdrawal from Afghanistan, U.S. involvement in the region led to the death of Osama Bin Laden, greatly diminished Al-Qaeda and prevented additional terrorist attacks on home soil, paved way for the advancement of rights for Afghan women and girls, and saved countless Afghan lives from the terror of the Taliban regime.
To our U.S. servicemembers who answered the call of duty in Afghanistan over the last twenty years, your service was not in vain and our country will never forget your service to our nation. My prayers are with our Afghanistan veterans and Gold Star families.