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Ernst says Afghan withdrawal hasty, haphazard and heartbreaking

WASHINGTON — Iowa Senator Joni Ernst says President Biden has “doubled down” on finger pointing — blaming President Trump and others for the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

“This botched withdrawal from Afghanistan — I’m just so angry about it,” Ernst said during an interview with Radio Iowa. “…The withdrawal was very hasty. It was haphazard. They pulled our troops out without having any sort of evacuation plan for Embassy personnel and for those that were going through the process of applying for the SIVs — the Special Immigrant Visas.”

In a speech from the White House Monday, Biden suggested the swift collapse of Afghanistan’s government and the surrender of its military proved that further U.S. involvement was fruitless if Afghans themselves weren’t willing to fight. Ernst said “at some point” the U.S. needed to withdraw, but after brutal Afghanistan winters, this is the peak of the so-called Taliban fighting season and she called the 2500 U.S. soldiers there “a stabilizing force” for the Afghan military.

“What we did is we pulled that support right out from under them and left them completely on their own,” Ernst said.

Ernst also faulted Biden for failing “to give any specifics” on how the U.S. intends to evacuate “Afghans who were our allies” over the past two decades.

“I’ve heard other veterans that are saying they are going back and forth between being so angry about this and just so heartbroken about it as well,” Ernst said, “and that’s how I just felt watching President being so defiant behind that podium.”

Ernst worked with other veterans in the House and Senate on legislation to speed up the State Department’s processing of Special Immigrant Visa applications from Afghans. And Ernst said it’s clear it “would be a death sentence” if U.S. immigration officials deport Zalmay Niaz, the Afghan interpreter for U.S. troops who’s lived in Iowa Falls since 2015. Niazy has been seeking political asylum in the United States. According to staff for Governor Kim Reynolds, 94 other Afghans and Iraqis with Special Immigrant Visas have been resettled in Iowa since mid-2016.

The other members of Iowa’s congressional delegation have expressed outrage and concern about the situation in Afghanistan. Republican Congresswoman Ashley Hinson of Marion says the president was silent over the weekend as the world watched the “unfolding catastrophe” in Afghanistan and his speech yesterday (Monday) lacked “clarity.” Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican from Ottumwa, says the crisis in Afghanistan was “completely avoidable and undermines our position with other allies.” Republican Congressman Randy Feenstra of Hull called his supporters to “pray for all who stand in harm’s way in Afghanistan.”

Congresswoman Cindy Axne of West Des Moines, the only Democrat in Iowa’s federal delegation, says now is the time “to stay focused on helping” Afghans who “worked to combat terrorism and support U.S. missions over the last 20 years.”


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