August 17, 2021

SFRC Chairman Menendez Statement on Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today issued the following statement on the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan:   

“After two decades of blood and treasure including thousands of American and Afghan lives, I am horrified and saddened by the chaos engulfing Afghanistan. My heart goes out to the Afghan people whose suffering will inevitably be greater under a Taliban regime determined to wipe out all of the hard fought gains made for the rights of Afghan women, minorities and other vulnerable groups.

“The events of recent days have been the culmination of a series of mistakes made by Republican and Democratic administrations over the past 20 years. For years, I have argued that the withdrawal of U.S. forces must leave a durable political settlement in place. The wholly inadequate agreement the Trump administration made with the Taliban did not get commitments for the Taliban to break ties with Al Qaeda, nor did it account for the day after our withdrawal. 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. We are now witnessing the horrifying results of many years of policy and intelligence failures.

“Today, we need to focus on the immediate and vital necessity of evacuating Americans as well as those vulnerable Afghans, especially women, journalists, and civil society activists who spent the past twenty years advocating for a more democratic Afghanistan who the Taliban is targeting right now. Our nation’s reputation is on the line and our whole government must be making every effort to achieve this objective. There were clear policy execution and intelligence failures associated with our withdrawal and its aftermath. How the U.S. handles the evacuation over the next few days will have implications well beyond Afghanistan and will impact our ability to build coalitions and work with partners moving forward.

“We are grateful to all the service members, diplomats, and NGO workers who have served and sacrificed in Afghanistan during the last two decades, especially those working around the clock during the last 72 hours to evacuate Americans and Afghans safely.

“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will continue fulfilling its oversight role with a hearing on U.S. policy towards Afghanistan, including the Trump administration’s flawed negotiations with Taliban, and the Biden administration’s flawed execution of the U.S. withdrawal. The Committee will seek a full accounting for these shortcomings as well as assess why the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces collapsed so quickly. Congress was told repeatedly that the Afghan Defense and Security Forces were up to the task, that it had the troops, equipment and willingness to fight. To see this army dissolve so quickly after billions of dollars in U.S. support is astounding. The American and Afghan people clearly have not been told the truth about the ANDSF’s capacity and deserve answers. Finally, the Committee will examine the path forward, focused on the international response to the looming humanitarian and human rights catastrophe under a Taliban-led regime.” 

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