- The Washington Times - Friday, August 20, 2021

Sen. Michael Bennet praised President Biden a few days before the Taliban took Kabul for making the “right decision” on pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, a comment now coming back to haunt the Colorado Democrat.

Mr. Bennet, who sits on the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, made his remarks in an Aug. 13 interview with the Colorado Sun, shortly before the Taliban overran the capital on Aug. 15 and thousands of Afghans sought to escape in a chaotic rush to the Kabul airport.

“I believe that he made the right decision,” Mr. Bennet told the Sun. “It was a difficult decision. It’s important to understand what the facts really are, which is that we were losing.”

Mr. Bennet has since focused on the importance of safely evacuating U.S. citizens and Afghan allies, as well as protecting Afghan women, but his support for the withdrawal as the Taliban rapidly advanced did not go unnoticed by Colorado Republicans.

“Yes, Senator Bennet, who is one of seven Democrats to sit on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, thinks that President Biden made the right decision on how he chose to pull out of Afghanistan,” said the Colorado Republican Party in a Friday press release.

The GOP also criticized Mr. Bennet for saying the Afghan Army numbered 300,000, a figure cited by Mr. Biden that has since been debunked by fact-checkers at outlets such as the Washington Post and CNN, which said it “significantly overstated the number of Afghans who were available to fight.”

In his comments last week, Mr. Bennet argued that even with a force of 300,000, the Afghan Army was still unable to hold back the Taliban.

“The reality is we’ve been there for 20 years and the Taliban is stronger today than it was in 2001,” Mr. Bennet said. “The Afghan Army is more than 300,000 people and the Taliban is less than a third of the size than that army and it was winning.”

The Colorado GOP said that as a member of the Senate intelligence committee, Mr. Bennet should have had better information about the army’s size as well as deteriorating conditions as the Taliban forged ahead and Afghan security forces folded.

“Senator Bennet has some serious questions to answer about why he supported this reckless, hasty, and haphazard plan,” the state party said.

The 300,000 figure appeared to combine the Afghan Army and the national police, according to the media fact-checkers, a number the Post called “inflated.”

Kyle Kohli, executive director of the conservative group Compass Colorado, said that “the fact that Bennet misrepresented the strength of the Afghan Army as the country collapsed is incredibly alarming,” citing a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report that put the size of the force in April at about 182,000.

“With thousands of Americans now stuck behind Taliban lines, Bennet needs to explain why he tried to cover up the Biden administration’s lies and incompetence,” Mr. Kohli said.

The Washington Times has reached out to Mr. Bennet for comment.

Congressional Democrats have largely avoided criticizing Mr. Biden on the Taliban takeover with a few exceptions, notably Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a former Marine officer in Iraq who called the unfolding chaos in Kabul a “disaster.”

Mr. Bennet joined 45 senators in a Tuesday letter urging Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to take “swift, robust action to protect and support Afghan women leaders facing unparalleled danger following the Taliban‘s seizure of Kabul.”

“We need to do everything we can to safely and quickly evacuate U.S. citizens and our Afghan allies, who have sacrificed everything to advance our mission and protect our troops,” Mr. Bennet said in a Monday statement. “For 20 years, they did not abandon us. Now, we cannot abandon them.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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