Democrats in charge of three Senate committees are vowing to hold hearings on the bungled U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, a reflection of how little political cover the Biden administration is getting from its allies on Capitol Hill as chaos engulfs the Middle Eastern country.
Sen. Bob Mendendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, cast some blame on former President Donald Trump and his deal with the Taliban, which predated President Joe Biden. But he also called out the Biden administration for its “flawed” execution of a plan that didn’t adequately foresee the rapid and stunning collapse of the Afghan government.
“In implementing this flawed plan, I am disappointed that the Biden administration clearly did not accurately assess the implications of a rapid U.S. withdrawal,” Menendez said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are now witnessing the horrifying results of many years of policy and intelligence failures.”
He pledged to “seek a full accounting for these shortcomings as well as assess why the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces collapsed so quickly.”
Intelligence reports earlier this summer questioned whether Afghan security forces would muster serious resistance to the Taliban and whether the government could hold on in Kabul, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Biden and his administration said at the time that a precipitous fall of the Afghan government was unlikely.
During a defiant speech on Monday defending the withdrawal, Biden said his administration “planned for every contingency” in Afghanistan but acknowledged the situation “did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated.” He did not address the broad, bipartisan criticism of how his team has handled the operation amid the surprisingly fast Taliban advance.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, vowed in a statement to ask “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.”
Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, similarly said he planned to investigate the “failures of intelligence, diplomacy and a lack of imagination as we transitioned military forces from the country.”
“This is not a Democratic or a Republican problem. These failures have been manifesting over four presidential administrations of both political parties,” Reed said.
Members of Congress are now largely focused on providing aid to stranded Afghan refugees, many of whom helped U.S. forces in the 20-year war that began under President George W. Bush’s direction following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. Those efforts include expediting the relocations of refugees and interpreters still trapped in the country. Many of them have been stuck in backlogged U.S. immigration systems for months.
But opposition to the U.S. taking in more refugees is again on the rise. Prominent conservative talking head and Fox News host Tucker Carlson is already fearmongering about an invasion of “millions” of Afghan refugees, “probably in your neighborhood.” The anti-refugee sentiment is being fanned by some other notable voices within the GOP as well, including Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) and Ohio GOP Senate candidate J.D. Vance.