Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., appeared to criticize the Biden administration’s handling of the evacuation mission in Afghanistan on Thursday after a terrorist attack at Kabul’s airport killed at least 12 U.S. military service members and wounded dozens of others.
Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he condemned the attack at Abbey Gate “in the strongest and most forceful of terms.” The suicide bombing followed days of warnings from Biden administration officials about a heightened terror threat from ISIS-K and other bad actors in Kabul.
“I understand that American personnel were among the casualties and my prayers are with the victims of this cowardly attack and their families,” Menendez said in a statement. “As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security.”
President Biden and other top administration officials have drawn criticism in recent days for suggesting a planned withdrawal of U.S. troops by Aug. 31 was contingent on cooperation from the Taliban to allow evacuation operations to proceed. Earlier this week, Biden warned, “Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.”
Administration officials have pushed back on the criticism, asserting that coordination with Taliban leaders was driven by necessity rather than genuine trust. Biden has personally indicated on multiple occasions, including as recently as Tuesday, that he did not trust the Taliban.
The terrorist attack at the airport prompted increased pressure on Biden from lawmakers who urged him to complete the evacuation mission regardless of the Aug. 31 deadline.
“This is a full-fledged humanitarian crisis, and the U.S. government personnel, already working under extreme circumstances, must secure the airport and complete the massive evacuation of Americans citizens and vulnerable Afghans desperately trying to leave the country,” Menendez added.
Menendez has been a vocal critic of the administration’s handling of the withdrawal. Earlier this month, he accused the president of having a “flawed plan” that “clearly did not accurately assess the implications of a rapid U.S. withdrawal.”