During an appearance on CNN Monday, Republican senator Ben Sasse slammed President’s Biden address to the nation that doubled down on his decision to withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan, leaving a power vacuum for the Taliban to exploit and occupy.
The senator blamed Biden for catalyzing the foreign-policy fiasco in Afghanistan, calling the blunder more egregious than the American retreat during the humiliating fall of Saigon in 1975 during the Vietnam War.
“Our troops promised them that the U.S. would never turn tail and have another cowardly moment like what happened in Saigon. This is worse than what happened in Saigon. What happened at the airport today is a more shameful moment than what happened in Saigon. And Biden comes out of his bunker trying to do a campaign photo-op speech where he attacks the Afghan people for coming to that airport,” he said.
Sasse charged that the Biden administration bears responsibility for the collapse of the Afghan military. Biden suggested Monday that Afghan soldiers abandoned all hope and surrendered the mission to the Taliban, without providing further context about what prompted the dissolution.
Some Republican lawmakers, such as Sasse, have rejected Biden’s assertion that the Afghan army simply lost the will to fight its own battles. Some have emphasized that the Biden administration’s move to pull air support from the country rendered the Afghan fighting force inoperative. Compounded with the fact that the U.S. also barred American contractors from staying in the country to service Afghan planes, some Republican legislators have contended that the Afghan military was positioned to fail under Biden’s direction.
“They fought with us, and we said they would be secure, and his administration undermined the confidence of those people fighting. We bizarrely, in one of the great blunders in military history, evacuated Bagram air force base in the middle of the night. Why? Why would we have evacuated Bagram air force base? The Biden administration undermined the confidence of the fighters in Afghanistan,” he said.
Among the other critical reactions to Biden’s speech was Republican senator Mitt Romney’s, which echoed Sasse’s earlier comments that the foreign-policy solution to Afghanistan should have never been treated as a rigid dichotomy between full occupation and haphazard withdrawal.
“The President’s failure to acknowledge his disastrous withdrawal provides no comfort to Americans or our Afghan partners whose lives hang in the balance,” Romney said. “Contrary to his claims, our choice was not between a hasty and ill-prepared retreat or staying forever. The decision to place a higher priority on a political promise than on the lives of innocent men, women, and children is a stain on America’s reputation and undermines our credibility around the world.”
CNN reporter Clarissa Ward told anchor Jake Tapper that Afghans will hear Biden’s speech as “hollow words.”
“The president said that the buck stopped with him, but, in fact, the speech was full of finger-pointing and blame,” Ward said. “There was very little there in terms of stepping up to the plate, assuming responsibility or even, dare I suggest it, issuing some kind of an apology to the Afghan people.”
Meanwhile, Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said Biden was “dangerously disconnected from reality” in an interview with Fox News.
“The president seemed totally oblivious to the conditions on the ground,” Cotton said. “He acted as if this withdraw is going in an orderly fashion, when in fact we have hundreds—if not thousands—of Americans stuck behind Taliban lines who have no clear instructions on how to get to the airport and get out of the country.”
PHOTOS: The Fall of Afghanistan