Kansas congressional members laud sacrifice of U.S. veterans as Afghanistan falls

Senate, House members worry for safety of Afghan allies as Taliban takes control

By: - August 19, 2021 9:16 am
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, left, joined with others in the Kansas congressional delegation to praise the sacrifice and courage of U.S. veterans as the Taliban takes control of Afghanistan and U.S. forces seek a hasty departure. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, left, joined with others in the Kansas congressional delegation to praise the sacrifice and courage of U.S. veterans as the Taliban takes control of Afghanistan and U.S. forces seek a hasty departure. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran marked the explosively swift Taliban takeover of Afghanistan by paying tribute to the sacrifice of American veterans who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States by volunteering to serve in the nation’s military.

Moran, the ranking Republican on the Senate’s committee on veterans’ affairs, pointed to dozens of organizations available to assist veterans, their families and caregivers in wake of Taliban fighters’ tightening grip on Afghanistan and the chaotic conclusion in Kabul of two decades of U.S. military involvement.

“The veterans who answered the call to protect our nation after September 11 deserve our utmost respect and gratitude,” Moran said. “These veterans brought justice to Osama bin Laden and served with duty and purpose. They also need to know they are not alone and that we will never forget their sacrifice.”

Moran urged friends and family of veterans Wednesday to check on welfare of these men and women, and “make certain they know they are loved and that their service made a difference.”

He recommended the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255; the online chat RallyPoint; Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors; VA Women Veterans Call Center at 1-855-829-6636; VA Caregiver Support Line; Together We Served, to locate for battle buddies; and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes.

 

‘Alarming, heartbreaking’

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat from Kansas’ Third District in the Kansas City area, said the United States had to evacuate Afghan translators, contractors and others who worked with U.S. forces. About 5,000 U.S. troops were deployed to Afghanistan by Biden to maintain security at the Kabul airport where cargo aircraft were operating to ferry Afghan allies out of the country.

“The reports from Afghanistan are alarming and heartbreaking,” Davids said. “I’m concerned for U.S. citizens and Afghan partners finding themselves trapped, and for civilians facing control by Taliban terrorist forces. We will not forget the toll this war has taken. My heart is with those who have served as we watch these events unfold.”

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., said she welcomed the presence of Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over President Joe Biden's shoulders during the president's speech to Congress. (Submitted/Kansas Reflector)
U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., said President Joe Biden lacked intelligence to anticipate the Taliban’s sudden takeover of Afghanistan and the need to quickly evacuate U.S. forces and Afghan allies. (Submitted)

Davids said growing up in a military family solidified her appreciation for the years of sacrifice by servicemembers and their families as Republican Presidents George Bush and Donald Trump and Democratic Presidents Barack Obama and Biden grappled with the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.

She said the United States lacked accurate intelligence to properly prepare for a mass exodus from Kabul.

The agreement leading to the U.S. military departure from Afghanistan was brokered by the Trump administration with Taliban representatives. The deal signed in February 2020 stipulated U.S. soldiers would exit by May. Trump ordered American military strength reduced to 2,500 prior to leaving office in January.

Biden, also keen to end U.S. operations in Afghanistan, didn’t hold to Trump’s original timeline. He had expected to complete the withdrawal by September.

Trump released a statement in April criticizing Biden’s strategy and declared a more prompt U.S. departure from Afghanistan would be “wonderful and positive.”

Last month, Biden made the case a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan wasn’t inevitable given presence of 300,000 Afghan security forces. The president also rejected assertions U.S. intelligence officials were convinced the Afghan government would collapse.

 

GOP blaming Biden

U.S. Reps. Ron Estes and Jake LaTurner, both Kansas Republicans, placed blame for the clumsy withdrawal from Afghanistan at Biden’s feet.

LaTurner, who serves the Second District stretching from Nebraska to Oklahoma, said the Biden administration’s miscalculations placed thousands of lives at risk in Afghanistan, jeopardized national security in the United States and damaged the international reputation of the U.S. government.

U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, R-Kan., said President Joe Biden’s failure to manage a conditional withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan led to crisis as the Taliban tightened its grip on power. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

“Many members of the intelligence community on both sides of the aisle have been quick to criticize the execution and the fallout of the withdrawal,” LaTurner said.

Estes, of the Fourth District anchored by Wichita, said no amount of spin from the White House could soften a catastrophe that could have been prevented by staging a conditional drawdown of military forces.

“Make no mistake, this surrender is Biden’s fault. Just last month Biden told reporters that ‘speed is safety’ when it comes to the drawdown. He clearly was wrong,” Estes said.

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, a Republican from Kansas, offered to help Kansans and their family or friends seeking to leave Afghanistan. He asked people could contact his Senate office at [email protected] or 785-829-9000 for information and instructions on the evacuation process.

“Despite conditions on the ground, our top priority should be protecting and evacuating any American that remains in Afghanistan,” the senator said. “The current state of Afghanistan cannot discount the sacrifices made by the American people over the last 20 years. Our veterans, current service members and Gold Star families who sacrificed so much in Afghanistan should be proud.”

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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