The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban has handed over an entire nation to unspeakable cruelty, violence, terrorism, and egregious abuse of women and girls.
Safe passage out of Afghanistan for thousands of Americans and our allies, including Afghan translators, their families, former U.S. employees, and others, must be immediately prioritized.
To ensure a safer, faster, and more robust evacuation from Afghanistan, I strongly urge the Biden Administration to create “humanitarian corridors” to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
Humanitarian corridors are specific routes and logistical methods agreed upon by all relevant parties to allow the safe passage of people and/or humanitarian goods from one point to another in an area of active fighting.
Today, those who need to leave Afghanistan must first pass through a dangerous gauntlet of heavily armed Taliban. The risk of serious harm—or worse—by the Taliban has likely deterred many from even attempting to reach the airport.
Was it realistic to believe that the desperation of those attempting to flee Afghanistan ends on August 31st—the Biden deadline for withdrawal of all U.S. troops?
On Tuesday, all Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, including me, called on President Biden to continue evacuation flights out of Kabul until all American citizens and our Afghan partners are safely out of the country. Our call followed National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s refusal to make that commitment when asked three times at Tuesday’s White House briefing.
Late Wednesday, the President told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, “if there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out.”
Meanwhile, with each passing hour, it is clear that President Biden utterly failed to anticipate or effectively respond to the Taliban’s rapid military offensive and continues to implement a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces without conditions.
Why wasn’t the withdrawal of U.S. troops linked to conditions on the ground?
Why didn’t the administration anticipate the tragic scenario that is unfolding right before our eyes?
What signal of America’s commitment to the people of Afghanistan did President Biden’s July withdrawal from Bagram Airfield in the middle of the night without even informing the base’s new Afghan commander send to the Afghan security forces and the Taliban?
Were the bitter lessons of the ISIS blitzkrieg that brought it to power and enabled ISIS to commit genocide against Christians and Yezidis after U.S. troops were pulled out of Iraq in 2011 not learned and considered in Afghanistan contingency planning?
We will always honor the incredible bravery and sacrifice of U.S. service members who valiantly fought in Afghanistan to mitigate terrorism to protect and preserve the innocent. They did their job exceptionally well. They are heroes.
In the coming days, humanitarian corridors—with international backing, perhaps even under a UN flag—will likely enable many more people to escape the cruelty of the Taliban.
In the coming weeks, the Biden-Harris Administration must provide a full, honest, and thorough accounting—devoid of all political spin and manipulation— of what can only be described as an unmitigated disaster.
• Christopher Henry Smith is an American politician serving his 21st term as the U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 4th congressional district.