Republican Rep. Peter Meijer said Friday that the U.S. has no option but to fully withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the August deadline, despite calls for an extension from some lawmakers and human rights groups.
In an interview with Fox News, the Michigan Republican said that following his secret trip to Kabul earlier this week with Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., he came to the realization that the security risk would be too great to remain in Afghanistan.
“I had not appreciated the degree to which our dependence [is] on the Taliban as a security partner,” the congressman explained. “I had a number of State Department folks and military leaders who all said the same thing.
“We can fight the Taliban, sure – we can kill a lot of them, they’ll kill some of our people in the process. But right now we have at least a working ability to get people onto that base and to get them out of Afghanistan.”
The congressman explained that if relations with the Taliban deteriorate, the U.S. could run operations to continue to get people out of Afghanistan but he said the mission would be “at a much greater risk” and “far fewer” people would be able to evacuate.
“The reality is we do not have an option,” Meijer said. “It is bizarre and infuriating and disgusting that we’re in this position – but that’s the position that President Biden’s decisions have left us in.”
Meijer said that he and other lawmakers have pressed the administration for months to address the backlog of Special Immigrant Visa applications that have piled up in the State Department over the course of the previous two administrations.
He argued that the Biden administration’s lack of dedication to the issue directly contributed to the flood of thousands of Americans and Afghans who congregated outside the Kabul airport – creating a heightened situational threat.
On Thursday, 13 U.S. service members and at least 60 Afghan civilians died after ISIS terrorists targeted the crowds in two separate suicide bombings.
Security officials had warned against the potential for such a threat since the collapse of Afghanistan less than two weeks ago.
“That is one of the most tragic and frankly, heroic components of what those Marines were doing,” Meijer said. “They were expecting to get hit. But they also knew that if they just closed down, Americans would die, legal permanent residents would die, Afghans loyal to our mission would die – so at incredible personal risk, they worked to keep that gate open.
“And I think probably saved hundreds of lives in the process,” he added.
A White House official told Fox News Friday that roughly 105,000 people have been evacuated since Aug. 14 – 12,500 of whom were evacuated over the last 24 hours.
It remains unclear how many Americans and Afghans will be unable to evacuate by the Aug. 31 deadline, but thousands are expected to be left behind – a security risk Meijer said could have been lessened.
In April, Biden extended the original withdrawal date agreed to under the Trump administration to Sept. 11. But then in July, the president said the U.S. military mission would be over in Afghanistan nearly two weeks sooner than planned.
“What’s important to note is the Taliban were comfortable with the September 11 deadline,” Meijer said, adding that it would have “doubled” the amount of time the U.S. had for the evacuation.
The Taliban have confirmed they will not agree to any extended military presence past the August deadline and said earlier this week that Afghan nationals will be barred from leaving the country after that time.
“The reality is even with a little bit more time, we probably wouldn’t be able to get all of these folks out. And that is tragic, it is frustrating,” the congressman said.
Meijer reflected on the handling of the War in Afghanistan by not only the Biden administration, but by the previous three administrations as well, and called for increased congressional war powers to hold the presidency accountable, under greater oversight.
“This failure of our Afghan experience in general, over that 20-year period, is proof of what happens when Congress just hands the keys for war-making to the president and frankly, checks out,” he said.
“Imagine if every member of Congress had to personally vote on whether or not to authorize those men and women to be there at their own peril,” Meijer said. “I do not think we have a 20-year war that ends the way it does… if we have an executive branch that knows that their actions are being closely scrutinized.”