U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) said Sunday the overtaking of Afghanistan by the Taliban is the result of “a short-sighted, weak and utter failure of both the previous White House and the current administration.”
Afghanistan’s president left the country Sunday, joining his fellow citizens and foreigners in fleeing the advancing Taliban, signaling the end of a 20-year Western effort aimed at remaking Afghanistan.
“The Taliban has always said that America has the watches, but they have the time,” Kinzinger said in a statement issued Sunday. “Under both President (Donald) Trump and President (Joe) Biden, the U.S. announced that our time in Afghanistan is over, effectively letting the Taliban know they were right, they could simply outwait us. And (Sunday), we watched as the Afghan government collapsed and the Taliban regained full control.”
Kinzinger, an Air Force veteran who flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, criticized the Trump administration for legitimizing the Taliban by having talks with them about peace and opening “negotiating with terrorists,” and also criticized the Biden administration for trying to fulfill a campaign promise “without any semblance of a plan or forethought into how this would play out.”
“And where are they now? What are they doing to save the countless lives being brutally murdered by the Taliban today?” Kinzinger questioned. “This is a disaster, and a stain on the entire nation.”
According to the Associated Press, the Taliban entered the capital earlier in the day, and an official with the group said it would soon announce the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the presidential palace — a return to the name of the country under the Taliban government ousted by U.S.-led forces after the 9/11 attacks.
Taliban fighters deployed across Kabul, taking over abandoned police posts and pledging to maintain law and order during the transition, the Associated Press said. Residents reported looting in parts of the city, including in the upscale diplomatic district, and messages circulating on social media advised people to stay inside and lock their gates.
The Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just more than a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces. Just days earlier, an American military assessment estimated it would be a month before the capital would come under insurgent pressure.
The fall of Kabul marks the final chapter of America’s longest war, which began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks masterminded by al-Qaida’s Osama bin Laden, then harbored by the Taliban government. A U.S.-led invasion dislodged the Taliban and beat them back.
For years, the U.S. has been looking for an exit for the war. Washington under then-President Donald Trump signed a deal with the Taliban in February 2020 that limited direct military action against the insurgents. That allowed the fighters to gather strength and move quickly to seize key areas when President Joe Biden announced his plans to withdraw all American forces by the end of this month.
Kinzinger has been critical in the months leading up to Sunday about the impact the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan may have.
“I am heartbroken and angry by what’s happening in Afghanistan, largely because this was entirely avoidable,” Kinzinger said. “I’ve said countless times that withdrawing our troops emboldens our enemies and puts our allies in grave danger. And yet, both President Trump and President Biden made their announcements anyway —broadcasting to our enemies that we were leaving and telling our allies around the world that we had given up.”
In citing the possible consequences of the recent outcome in Afghanistan, Kinzinger said the effort to ensure women’s empowerment there will be reversed, the possibility Afghanistan will once again become a safe haven and recruiting ground for terrorists is a likelihood.
“The peace, stability and security that our presence in Afghanistan assured both the Afghan people and Americans here at home has been entirely wiped out,” Kinzinger said.
Though the Taliban had promised a peaceful transition, the U.S. Embassy suspended operations and warned Americans to shelter in place and not try to get to the airport.
Commercial flights were later suspended after sporadic gunfire erupted at the airport, according to two senior U.S. military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press to discuss ongoing operations. Evacuations continued on military flights, but the halt to commercial traffic closed off one of the last routes available for Afghans fleeing the country.
Kinzinger called Sunday “a dark day.”
“I will continue to do whatever I can to help our allies on the ground, pushing for the Biden Administration to facilitate the Special Immigrant Visas quickly and efficiently,” Kinzinger said. “And I will continue to be grateful to the men and women of our military who served in Afghanistan —i t will be honored and remembered as a worthy mission, and we will be forever grateful for their dedicated service and countless sacrifices.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.