The United States should utilize airstrikes to stop the Taliban from gaining more ground in Afghanistan, the Senate’s top Republican said Saturday.
“It is not too late to prevent the Taliban from overrunning Kabul. The Administration should move quickly to hammer Taliban advances with airstrikes, provide critical support to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) defending the capital, and prevent the seemingly imminent fall of the city,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.
“If they fail to do so, the security threat to the United States will assuredly grow and the humanitarian cost to innocent Afghans will be catastrophic,” he added.
Other Republicans also called on Biden to take decisive action, warning there will be consequences if he does not.
“I ask you to commit U.S. air support to blunt the Taliban offensive. Taliban forces are exposed on the ground much as they were in 2001. Air support will give the Government of Afghanistan and ANSF time to regroup and turn the tide of battle. They are doing the fighting and dying on the ground, but American air support will bolster their resolve and change the battlefield psychology,” Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) said in a letter to the president on Friday.
Taliban fighters were approaching Kabul Saturday, a day after American troops started evacuating Americans from the U.S. Embassy. The embassy warned Americans this week to leave immediately, and Biden authorized approximately 3,000 troops to aid the evacuation in what the Pentagon described as “a narrowly focused mission to help safeguard an orderly reduction of civilians.”
The Taliban has quickly taken a slew of provincial capitals following the recent U.S. withdrawal, and is poised to unseat the sitting government if the progress continues.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said he was holding talks with local leaders and international partners as the Taliban threatened Kabul. In a public address, he told Afghanis that he is focused on consolidating the country’s security and defense forces to oppose the Taliban blitz.
The U.S. withdrawal was triggered by former President Donald Trump. President Joe Biden decided after taking office to continue the withdrawal, but pushed back the pullout date several months, shattering an agreement with the Taliban.
Republicans have blamed the rapid Taliban advancement on Biden, alleging his administration could have planned the withdrawal better.
“I have long called for a deliberative, planned, vetted, and secure withdrawal from Afghanistan while maintaining maximum leverage. Wars should have ends. That is the opposite of what President Biden has pursued,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Friday.
“The world is watching in horror as the Taliban takes over Afghanistan in response to President Biden’s disastrous withdrawal of U.S. troops. The President’s failure to develop a plan or execute coherent operations in Afghanistan not only erases the successes of the United States and our allies, but it emboldens terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS and invites future attacks against the United States like we experienced on 9/11,” added Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.).
Biden has defended his decision to complete withdrawal, telling reporters on Tuesday that the Afghani troops “have got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation.”
“The United States, I’ll insist we continue to keep the commitments we made in providing close air support, making sure their Air Force functions and is operable, resupplying their forces with food and equipment, and paying all their salaries,” he added. “But they’ve got to want to fight. They outnumber the Taliban.”
“We are closely watching the deteriorating security conditions in parts of the country, but no particular outcome, in our view, is inevitable,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the following day.
Biden has not commented on the situation since Tuesday. He went to his house in Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday, with plans to go to Camp David in Maryland over the weekend. Biden did not answer questions as he was departing.
“Earlier today, the President was briefed by members of his national security team on the ongoing efforts to safely drawdown the civilian footprint in Afghanistan. He will get further briefings later today,” the White House said on Friday.
Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.