Updated Aug 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

What they're saying: Congress reacts to the rapid fall of Afghanistan

Taliban fighters guarding a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 16.
Taliban fighters guarding a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 16. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

The Taliban has declared victory in Afghanistan after seizing most of Kabul Sunday, forcing Ashraf Ghani to flee the country and the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy.

Why it matters: The U.S.'s exit from the country was the opposite of the orderly withdrawal that President Biden had promised when he announced the full military withdrawal earlier this year.

  • Thousands of Afghans who aided U.S. and coalition forces have yet to be evacuated from the country.
  • The Biden administration is still attempting to find countries to temporarily house Afghans who risk retaliation from the Taliban if they stay in the country.

What they're saying:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): "The Taliban must know the world is watching its actions. We are concerned about reports regarding the Taliban’s brutal treatment of all Afghans, especially women and girls."
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): "The Biden Administration’s botched exit from Afghanistan including the frantic evacuation of Americans and vulnerable Afghans from Kabul is a shameful failure of American leadership. The United States had the capacity to avoid this disaster."
  • House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.): "There will be much analysis of our Afghanistan experience, but right now, I am gravely concerned for the safety of our Afghan partners who served side-by-side with our troops, our diplomats, our development professionals, and our partner forces to carry out our mission."
  • House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.): "What will unfold in Afghanistan will be a humanitarian crisis. The regime that is taking power is one that routinely violates human rights, particularly the rights of women."
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.): "Foreign policy matters: After 20 years of U.S. effort, the loss of 2,448 soldiers and a trillion spent, Afghanistan was left with a corrupt government and an ineffectual military.  At this moment, we must do everything we can to evacuate our allies and open our doors to refugees."
  • Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.): "To say that today is anything short of a disaster would be dishonest. Worse, it was avoidable. The time to debate whether we stay in Afghanistan has passed, but there is still time to debate how we manage our retreat."
  • Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.): "[O]ur top priorities must be the safety of American diplomats and other citizens in Afghanistan, and the extraction of Afghans who are at greatest risk, including those who bravely fought alongside our forces since 2001. The world must know that the United States stands by her friends in times of need, and this is one of those times."
  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.): "The mission at this point ought to be simple: bolster American troops and firepower until we can get flights running around the clock. The Taliban must not dictate when every last American, our courageous Afghan partners, and their families are off the tarmac.”

The big picture: Biden blamed former President Trump for the Taliban's rapid conquest of the country, saying he empowered the militant group and left them "in the strongest position militarily since 2001." He added, however, that he had to make a choice and that he would not pass on the war to a "fifth" U.S. president.

  • The U.S. and over 60 countries issued a joint statement Sunday saying Afghans and international citizens who wish to leave the country should be allowed to do so, with airports and border crossings remaining open.

Go deeper: In photos: Scenes from Afghanistan after the Taliban takes control

Editor's note: This story will be updated with additional comments.

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