- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2021

A leading moderate House Democrat criticized President Biden on Sunday for botching the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, only hours after the Taliban effectively took control of the country. 

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas argued in a social media post that the burgeoning crisis in Afghanistan presented “another shame” for the Biden administration

“There’s no way to hide it,” said Mr. Gonzalez, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The situation in Afghanistan is another shame on this admin. Withdrawal was never going to be easy but it didn’t need to come to this.” 

Mr. Gonzalez added the U.S. “must do everything in its power to help our” partners and allies to safety, as well guard national security interests. 

The criticism was surprising given that Mr. Gonzalez was one of Mr. Biden’s high-profile backers during the 2020 campaign. In mid-2019, the Texas congressman made news for defecting to Mr. Biden after initially endorsing former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. 

Mr. Gonzalez’s comments came shortly after the Taliban invaded and overtook Kabul. In the lead-up to seizing the national capital, the Taliban spent weeks capturing provinces and cities around the periphery of the Afghan capital.

As of Friday, the extremist group controlled more than two-thirds of the country, pushing the Western-friendly government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who has reportedly fled the country.

Earlier this week, Mr. Biden dispatched 3,000 troops to Kabul to expedite the evacuation of U.S. citizens ahead of the White House’s withdrawal date of Sept. 11. The evacuation, however, has been complicated by the Taliban’s capture of Bagram Air Force Base, a key U.S. military installation. 

“The U.S. military has a very real predicament. It must now evacuate the embassy in Kabul, via Hamid Karzai International Airport. What happens when Afghans grasp the gravity of the situation, the airport is swarmed,” said Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “This is why it needed to keep Bagram open.”

More troubling is that during its capture of Bagram, the Taliban also overran the Parwan Detention Facility. The facility housed more than 5,000 enemy combatants, including senior-level Al-Qaeda operatives and members of other terrorist groups. 

According to reports, the Taliban has freed all 5,000 prisoners, putting U.S. and Afghan security at grave risk. 

“One can disagree with me and think the Biden administration was right to pull out all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but it is impossible to argue that it has gone about it in the right way,” said Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “This looks to be both a major intelligence [and] policy failure with tragic consequences.” 

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