On August 18, President Biden sat down for an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. He was asked directly if U.S. troops would stay in Afghanistan until every American who wanted to leave could do so.
“Yes,” the president responded.
As we found out just days later, our commander-in-chief broke his promise and left hundreds of Americans and thousands of our Afghan allies behind.
They were stranded — despite what the White House unconscionably claims — left to fend for themselves in a state now controlled by a radical group that aids and abets known terrorists.
Not only did Mr. Biden’s mismanaged exit cause chaos for those wanting to leave, but on August 26, it also cost the lives of 13 U.S. service members.
They were the first American casualties in Afghanistan in 18 months.
Nearly two years prior to that day, I was in Afghanistan with a bipartisan group of House and Senate colleagues.
I had the chance to visit some of the same locations—including the Kabul airport—that we saw fall apart before our eyes today.
At the time, these locations were secure and safe thanks to the counter-terrorism efforts our military put into place. These efforts were critically important to help Afghan national forces, national police, and their government secure more of their territory so they would not be overtaken by violent terrorist groups, which is exactly what the Biden administration let happen. We abandoned places like the Bagram Air Base, literally in the middle of the night.
As much as the White House would like to downplay what took place and move on, that just isn’t going to happen.
We deserve answers for the American troops who were killed.
We deserve answers for the Americans and others who were left behind.
And we deserve answers for our nation’s reputation on the world stage that is now irreversibly damaged.
Along with most of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, I am eager to get those answers and hear what administration officials have to say about one of the most embarrassing and tragic foreign policy blunders of our generation.
No more lies. No more opining about the philosophical question of whether or not we should have left. No more passing the buck to past administrations. No more spin.
We need to know why the president won’t tell the truth to the American people and why he chose to exit Afghanistan in the most damaging way possible before we could get our citizens, our allies, and our equipment safely out.
The president has indicated he has gotten assurances from the Taliban. What assurances have we given them?
I can’t pretend to know what it feels like for Gold Star families or for those who lost a son, daughter, father, mother, brother, or sister on September 11, 2001, or for those who have a family member still stranded in Afghanistan.
But owning up to what happened seems like the least this administration can do right now.
This past weekend, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, provided all of us a chance to reflect on how far we’ve come since that awful day. What we lost, what we gained, and how we’ve moved forward as a nation. I thought about how September 11 was the original date of the President’s misguided plan.
As I re-watched footage and read stories about grief, survival, and hope like many of you, I thought of the victims, their families, and the first responders who lost their lives and those they loved.
But I also thought about every man and woman who deployed to some of the most dangerous places in the world in the years following.
Our veterans raised their hands, put on a uniform, and volunteered to go to war – something most of us cannot possibly imagine – all to defend the United States from pure evil.
I wondered what they thought of the president’s actions and his words.
They, perhaps more than any of us, deserve answers too.
• Shelley Moore Capito is a U.S. Senator from West Virginia and the first female senator from the Mountain State.