62% of Americans believe US troops will have to return to Afghanistan to fight terrorism: poll

afghanistan us evacuation
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, enters a plane evacuating people at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug 17, 2021.

  • 62% of Americans think US troops will have to return to Afghanistan to fight terrorism, a new poll says.
  • But 69% of Americans say that ending the war was the right thing to do, according to Quinnipiac.
  • The poll also found that 50% of Americans now disapprove of the way Biden’s handling his job.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

According to new poll released by Quinnipiac University, 62% of Americans think US forces will have to return to Afghanistan to fight terrorism.

The results highlight a stark partisan split. While 83% of Republicans believe American forces will have to return to the Central Asian country, just 38% of Democrats agree. Meanwhile, 65% of independents also believe that US forces will have to return.

At the end of August, the United States completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, putting an end to a nearly 20-year war that began following the 9/11 terror attacks. US forces evacuated over 100,000 people from the country, but nearly 170 Afghan civilians died in an August 26 terrorist attack by ISIS-K at the Kabul airport, which also killed 13 US service members.

Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that a civil war in the country is likely following the US withdrawal, and that such a conflict could enable a resurgence by the terror group Al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile, Biden administration officials have argued that the US can effectively combat any terrorist threat via “over-the-horizon” capabilities, including using aerial surveillance and drone strikes from military installations in the region.

Yet even as most Americans anticipate further US troop deployments, a strong majority – 69% of all respondents – say that ending the war in Afghanistan was the right thing to do. That includes 48% of Republicans, more than the 45% who say it was the decision was wrong-headed.

But the poll also spelled trouble for President Joe Biden: 50% of Americans now disapprove of the way he’s handling his job, while just 42% approve. That includes a majority of self-identified independents, 52% of whom disapprove of Biden.

The Quinnipiac University poll, conducted from September 10 through 13 following the August 31 withdrawal. The poll included 1,210 adults nationwide and had a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

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US officials helped an American citizen and their family escape Afghanistan across an overland route

Afghanistan refugees walking at dawn
Afghanistan refugees walking at dawn.

  • An American citizen and their family fleeing Afghanistan were helped across the border by the US, according to the Associated Press.
  • The group fled the Taliban-controlled country via an “overland” route.
  • Biden administration officials say “around 100” Americans remain in Afghanistan after the US pulled out troops.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Biden administration confirmed that it helped with an American citizen and their family members escape from Afghanistan to a neighboring country using an “overland route,” according to an Associated Press report on Monday.

The evacuation was the first reported time that a US family has been assisted in their escape across a land border since American military planes last left the country on August 30.

The unnamed official wouldn’t give any specific details of the escape route, including the neighboring country in which the evacuees arrived, to protect its viability for future missions, the AP reported.

American embassy officials met the group at the Afghanistan border. An overland evacuation meant the group would’ve arrived at the border on foot or in a vehicle.

Five countries border Afghanistan including Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and China. The disputed Kashmir region claimed by both India and Pakistan also borders Afghanistan.

America has embassies in all but one of those countries, Iran. Given the tense state of affairs between the US and Iran, it’s likely the overland escape would’ve been carried out to one of the more friendly countries to the US.

A tweet from Rep. Ronny Jackson confirmed that four US citizens from Texas were evacuated, including young children, citing the “first successful ground evacuation since the US left Kabul.”

Airlifting additional US citizens out of Afghanistan has proven difficult following the official end of the US’ presence in the country. Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas on Sunday warned of what he called a “hostage” situation at Mazar-i-Sharif International Airport in northern Afghanistan as six planes were prevented from leaving.

“In fact, we have six airplanes at Mazar-i-Sharif Airport, six airplanes, with American citizens on them as I speak, also with these interpreters, and the Taliban is holding them hostage for demands right now,” McCaul, the Republican leader on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Fox News Sunday.

Also on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain told CNN’s “State of the Union” that “around 100” US citizens remain in Afghanistan and that the Biden administration is in touch with all American citizens that have been identified in the country. “We are going to find ways – the ones that want to leave – to get them out of Afghanistan,” Klain said.

It’s not the first time that the US has had to go to extreme measures to get its citizens out of hostile Middle Eastern and South Asian countries. In 1980, the Central Intelligence Agency working with the Canadian government flew American diplomats using assumed identities out of Iran following the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.

Afghan refugees have been fleeing to their country’s borders in attempts to seek asylum in neighboring countries, with the BBC reporting large masses gathering at Afghanistan-Pakistan border crossings. Pakistan and Iran have declined to accept additional Afghan refugees, the British news outlet reported.

The Taliban flag now flies over the Afghanistan border, including at a crossing near Chaman, Pakistan.

Afghanistan-Pakistan border crossing Taliban flag
A Taliban flag flies at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Other Middle Eastern and European countries are taking a hard line on migration across their borders in the wake of the US withdrawal. Turkey is reinforcing its border with Iran using three-meter tall concrete slabs, according to the Guardian, while Greece recently completed a 25-mile wall on its border with Turkey, according to CNN.

And at the border of the European Union in Poland, soldiers have constructed a makeshift border of barb fencing with neighboring Belarus to stop the rising tide of migrants from countries including Afghanistan and Iraq, according to Reuters.

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Gen. Mark Milley says a civil war in Afghanistan is ‘likely’ after US troop withdrawal, potentially leading to a resurgence of al Qaeda

Mark Milley
Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.

  • Gen. Mark Milley said that a future civil war in Afghanistan is “likely” after the US troop exit.
  • “I think there’s at least a very good probability of a broader civil war,” he said during a Fox News interview.
  • President Biden last week said that he did not want “to extend this forever war” in Afghanistan.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Gen. Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that a future civil war in Afghanistan is “likely” after the US troop withdrawal from the country, which could lead to the reemergence of groups like al Qaeda and ISIS.

During an interview with Fox News National Security Correspondent Jennifer Griffin that aired on Saturday, Milley was asked if the US was safer with its military presence in Afghanistan having been eliminated.

“Well, you know, this is something that I’ve thought a lot about,” he said. “And I personally think that my military estimate is that the conditions are likely to develop of a civil war. I don’t know if the Taliban is gonna be able to consolidate power and establish governance – they may be, maybe not.”

He added: “But I think there’s at least a very good probability of a broader civil war, and that will then in turn lead to conditions that could in fact, lead to a reconstitution of al Qaeda or a growth of ISIS or other myriad of terrorist groups. You could see a resurgence of terrorism coming out of that general region within 12, 24, 36 months. And we’re going to monitor that.”

Milley went on to explain that intelligence gathering by the US will be complicated by the fact that the country no longer has a presence in Afghanistan.

“We’ll have to reestablish some human intelligence networks, etc.,” he said. “And then as opportunities present themselves, we’ll have to continue to conduct strike operations if there’s a threat to the United States.”

Read more: The ultimate White House org chart to 600+ members of Biden’s staff and who makes six figures

When asked if he could foresee a scenario where US troops would have to return to Afghanistan, Milley said it would be a “very difficult policy choice.”

“I wouldn’t say yes or no to anything actually,” he said, emphasizing that the country would continue to analyze intelligence information. “I think those are … it’s too early to say anything like that at this point.”

Milley’s comments come as President Joe Biden and his foreign policy and defense teams oversaw a tumultuous August in Afghanistan – defined by the Aug. 15 fall of Kabul to the Taliban, the deaths of 13 US service members and at least 169 Afghans in a Aug. 26 suicide bombing perpetuated by the Islamic State affiliate ISIS-K, and the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline which the Taliban was emphatic on preserving.

The withdrawal marked the end to a nearly 20-year conflict in the country, which was put into motion by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when al Qaeda hijacked planes that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City, severely damaged the Pentagon, and crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed on that fateful day.

Many lawmakers are distressed that Afghanistan could become a haven for terrorists with the lack of a US or allied military presence.

The Taliban have stressed that they have moderated since the 1990s and said that they would respect the rights of women, although many in Afghanistan and throughout the international community are highly skeptical.

In forcefully defending his decision to leave Afghanistan, Biden last week reiterated that he did not want “to extend this forever war.”

“To those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan, I ask: ‘What is the vital national interest?’ In my view, we only have one: to make sure Afghanistan can never be used again to launch an attack on our homeland,” he said.

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Biden pays respects to the 13 fallen US service members killed in Afghanistan at Dover Air Force Base

us service members carry a us flag-laden casket as joe Biden jill biden and others look on
President Joe Biden, First lady Jill Biden, and other officials attend the dignified transfer of the remains of a fallen service member at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, on August, 29, 2021.

  • President Biden on Sunday went to Dover to pay tribute to the service members killed in Afghanistan.
  • The service members who died were assisting in the evacuation efforts at the Kabul airport.
  • In a statement, Biden lauded the “bravery and selflessness” of the fallen in their service.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden on Sunday met privately with the families of the 13 US service members who were killed in the suicide bombing near the Kabul airport and received the bodies of the fallen officers who died in Afghanistan.

First lady Jill Biden joined the president at Dover Air Base to participate in the “dignified transfer” of remains, a solemn process where the remains of service members killed in foreign combat are transported from an aircraft to an awaiting vehicle.

The fallen officers ranged in age from 20 to 31, and included a Marine from Wyoming who was expecting his first child in just a few weeks and another Marine from California who raved about her job and was photographed holding an Afghan child just a few days ago.

Five of the fallen service members were only 20 years old, having been born shortly before the September 11, 2001 attacks that drove the US to invade Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda and bring down the Taliban.

The service members were in the country to aid in the evacuation efforts, as Biden has sought to end a war that has been waged under four US presidents, including himself.

“The 13 service members that we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others,” Biden said in a statement released on Saturday. “Their bravery and selflessness has enabled more than 117,000 people at risk to reach safety thus far.”

Biden Dover Afghanistan
President Joe Biden and other officials attend the dignified transfer of the remains of fallen service members at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware, on August, 29, 2021. Last week, 13 members of the US military were killed in Afghanistan.

The fallen service members returning to Dover were:

  • Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts
  • Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska
  • Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California
  • Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California
  • Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio
  • Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee

Family members of fallen officers often come to Dover to witness the return of their loved ones as they come back to the country they fought so valiantly to protect.

Also at the ceremony were a large group of US officials, including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, US Marine Corps commandant Gen. David Berger, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

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Romney, criticizing Trump and Biden, says the US is facing current situation in Afghanistan ‘because of terrible decisions made by two administrations’

Mitt Romney
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.

  • Sen. Mitt Romney blasted the Afghanistan policies of President Biden and former President Trump.
  • On CNN, he called the current situation in Afghanistan “a humanitarian and foreign policy tragedy.”
  • Romney said that it would be “a moral stain” to leave Afghan allies behind after the US withdrawal.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Mitt Romney on Sunday said that the current on-the-ground situation in Afghanistan is a consequence of policy failures made by President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.

During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” the Utah Republican told host Jake Tapper that the rush to withdraw Afghan allies and Americans was “preventable” and criticized past decisions by the two administrations when asked if US troops should remain in the country past the Aug. 31 deadline to aid with further evacuations.

“Leaving Americans behind and leaving our Afghan friends behind who’ve worked with us would put upon us and will put upon us a moral stain,” the senator said. “This did not have to happen. It was preventable. We didn’t have to be in this rush-rush circumstance with terrorists breathing down our neck.”

He emphasized: “But it’s really the responsibility of the prior administration and this administration that has caused this crisis to be upon us and has led to what without question a humanitarian and foreign policy tragedy.”

Romney, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, continued to focus on what he felt were serious missteps in the approaches taken by Biden and Trump, who both sought to wind down the war in Afghanistan.

Read more: How Americans who helped prosecute the Taliban are going down a ‘black hole’ to help their Afghan interpreters

“If you focus on what we should do right now, recognize we’re in the position we’re in right now is because of terrible decisions made by two administrations,” he said. “One, the Trump administration negotiating directly with the Taliban, getting ready to invite them to Camp David, opening up a prison of 5,000 Taliban and probably ISIS-K individuals and letting them free. We don’t know whether some of them were involved in the attack that occurred.”

He added: “These were the decisions that led to what you’re seeing and the danger that exists at the airport. This should not have happened.”

The Thursday terrorist attack near the Kabul airport that killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members marked the deadliest day for US military members in the country since 2011.

Romney was also critical of Biden’s decision to close Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, which was once the largest US military base in the country but has since fallen to the Taliban.

The key facility was abandoned by the US ahead of the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Romney went on to say that the fight against terrorism will continue, even with troops out of the country.

“You can’t, as one party, end a war,” he said. “It takes two parties to end a war. The Taliban and the radical violent jihadists in the world haven’t stopped fighting. They’re going to continue to fight us. The war is not over.”

While Romney focused on Biden and Trump in his criticism, the handling of the war was also overseen by former President George W. Bush, who first deployed US troops to Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, along with former President Barack Obama, who sent 30,000 additional troops to the country in late 2009.

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Biden plans to evacuate all US diplomatic staff from Afghanistan by withdrawal deadline: report

US embassy Kabul
A US Chinook military helicopter flies above the US embassy in Kabul.

  • Biden is planning to evacuate diplomatic staff in Afghanistan by Aug. 31, per The Washington Post.
  • Without any plans set in place, the US diplomatic presence in Kabul will go dark for some time.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken tamped down the likelihood of an on-the-ground presence in Kabul.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden is planning to evacuate all diplomatic staff in Afghanistan by the Aug. 31 troop withdrawal deadline with no concrete plans on whether or not they will return to the country, according to The Washington Post.

The Taliban has signaled some interest in the US keeping a diplomatic outpost in Kabul, but the Biden administration has not yet concluded on what their potential presence in the country might resemble.

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Friday said that the Biden administration is “actively discussing” the Taliban’s request with allies. But he said that the US has not spoken with the Taliban about a vision for a future US diplomatic presence, according to a US official who spoke to The Washington Post.

Without any plans set in place, it is all but assured that the US diplomatic presence in Kabul will go dark for some time, which would make it more difficult for the Biden administration as they have sought to continue aiding Americans and Afghans who hope to leave the country after Aug. 31. The withdrawal comes two decades after US-led troops ousted the Taliban in the “War on Terror.” The group made a lightning-quick advance to regain control of the country this month.

In crafting plans for a potential diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, the Biden administration must also determine whether they will formally acknowledge a Taliban government, according to The Post report.

When asked how the US can help individuals who will remain in Afghanistan after Aug. 31, the US said it was working on the logistics.

“We’re developing detailed plans for how we can continue to provide consular support and facilitate departures for those who wish to leave after August 31,” a senior State Department official said.

Read more: How Americans who helped prosecute the Taliban are going down a ‘black hole’ to help their Afghan interpreters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Sunday appearance on “Meet the Press” was not optimistic about a future on-the-ground diplomatic presence in the country, saying “that’s not likely to happen.”

“What is going to happen is that our commitment to continue to help people leave Afghanistan who want to leave and who are not out by September 1st, that endures,” he said. “There’s no deadline on that effort. And we have ways, we have mechanisms to help facilitate the ongoing departure of people from Afghanistan if they choose to leave.”

There are roughly 350 Americans remaining in Afghanistan who want to leave the country, a State Department spokesperson told The Post. Several of the individuals may have already found a way to leave Kabul, the spokesperson added.

The State Department also conversed with 280 additional individuals who claimed to be American citizens in Afghanistan but had either not yet relayed their plans or informed officials that they wanted to stay in the country.

US passport holders who want to depart Kabul can get into the airport, despite the rush in evacuations before the looming withdrawal date, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Saturday.

Army Maj. Gen. William D. “Hank” Taylor reported that in a 24-hour period between Friday and Saturday, 6,800 individuals were flown out of Kabul – with 4,000 of the evacuees on US military planes.

Roughly 117,000 individuals have been flown out of Afghanistan since the evacuation undertaking began on Aug. 14, Taylor said.

As Afghanistan prepares for a full US troop withdrawal, many residents of fearful of the impending Taliban rule.

A terrorist attack at the Kabul airport that killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members last week only served to magnify the level of danger that has permeated much of Kabul. The suicide bombing was carried out by ISIS-K, the regional affiliate of the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

The US on Friday retaliated to the airport attack with a drone strike that killed two high-profile Islamic State militants, according to the Pentagon.

Biden on Saturday reiterated that “this strike was not the last” and warned that another terrorist attack at the Kabul airport is “highly likely in the next 24 to 36 hours.”

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Ted Cruz says the Biden administration’s decision to vacate Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan was a ‘political decision’ that ‘proved catastrophic’

A plane lands at Bagram airfield in Afghanistan.
A US Air Force transport plane lands at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan on July 1, 2021.

  • Ted Cruz criticized the Biden administration’s decision to vacate Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base.
  • Bagram was once the largest US military base in the country but has since fallen to the Taliban.
  • GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ben Sasse have both called on Biden to retake the key base.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Ted Cruz criticized the Biden administration’s decision to vacate Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base in July on Friday, in the aftermath of Thursday’s terrorist attack near the Kabul airport that killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members.

Bagram, which was once the largest US military base in the country but has since fallen to the Taliban, is roughly 40 miles from Kabul. The facility was abandoned by the US ahead of the August 31 troop deadline from Afghanistan.

The Texas Republican took to Twitter and posted a tweet from Fox News commentator Brit Hume, who tweeted out an August statement from Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who spoke of the need to leave Bagram to secure the US Embassy in Kabul.

“Our task given to us at that time, our task was to protect the embassy in order for the embassy personnel to continue to function with their consular service and all that,” Milley said at the time. “If we were to keep both Bagram and the embassy going, that would be a significant number of military forces that would have exceeded what we had or stayed the same or exceeded what we had. So we had to collapse one or the other, and a decision was made.”

Read more: How Americans who helped prosecute the Taliban are going down a ‘black hole’ to help their Afghan interpreters

Cruz, who has been highly critical of the Biden administration’s Afghanistan strategy, tweeted that the US leaving Bagram was “catastrophic.”

“What Milley said on 8/18 is exactly what DoD said on our briefing today: They abandoned Bagram bc they were ordered to reduce troop levels below that needed to maintain both Bagram & embassy security. This political decision- to close Bagram BEFORE evacuation – proved catastrophic,” he wrote.

In addition to Cruz, a number of other GOP lawmakers, including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, have decried the decision to leave Bagram. Graham and Sasse have urged President Joe Biden to retake the facility.

Biden during a Thursday address at the White House was asked if he rejected calls to recapture the base.

“On the tactical questions of how to conduct an evacuation or a war, I gather up all the major military personnel that are in Afghanistan – the commanders, as well as the Pentagon,” he said. “And I ask for their best military judgment: what would be the most efficient way to accomplish the mission.”

He added: “They concluded – the military – that Bagram was not much value added, that it was much wiser to focus on Kabul. And so, I followed that recommendation.”

With the August 31 withdrawal deadline quickly approaching, Biden has so far stuck with the date to finish evacuating additional Americans and Afghan allies from the Kabul airport.

As of Friday, the US has evacuated more than 109,000 people from Afghanistan since August 14.

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US destroys CIA outpost outside Kabul airport to keep sensitive information away from Taliban: report

Taliban fighters
Taliban fighters stand guard outside of the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 27, 2021.

American forces on Thursday destroyed the last CIA outpost in Afghanistan outside of the Kabul airport in order to keep sensitive equipment and information away from the Taliban, US officials told The New York Times.

A controlled demolition was utilized to blow up Eagle Base, a former brick factory repurposed into a facility employed to train counterterrorism forces of Afghanistan’s intelligence agencies, according to The Times.

As the Afghan government was crumbling in the wake of the Taliban’s advances throughout the country, the forces at Eagle Base were some of the only remaining officials who continued their efforts to fight the insurgents.

Former CIA officer Mick Mulroy, who served in Afghanistan, praised the unit while speaking with The Times.

“They were an exceptional unit,” he said. “They were one of the primary means the Afghan government has used to keep the Taliban at bay over the last 20 years. They were the last ones fighting, and they took heavy casualties.”

Read more: How Americans who helped prosecute the Taliban are going down a ‘black hole’ to help their Afghan interpreters

According to The Times, local Afghan residents didn’t know much about the facility, as it was heavily fortified with walls that reached 10 feet and a thick metal gate that quickly opened and closed to permit vehicles inside the perimeter.

Once the vehicles were inside, they went through three security checkpoints and searches, with documents also being screened before any visitors were authorized inside the base facility.

A former CIA contractor told The Times that the action needed to be taken to prevent hard drives and sensitive equipment from being used by a Taliban-led government – and unlike embassies, documents simply couldn’t be burned to shield confidential information.

The obliteration of the base was already in the works and was unrelated to the terrorist attack on Thursday at the Kabul airport that killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members. The bombing that day was carried out by ISIS-K, the regional affiliate of the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

The destruction of the base unnerved many Kabul residents who heard the explosion and were fearful that another terrorist attack was possibly being carried out.

At the Kabul airport, evacuees are still being flown out of the country, which is expected to last through the end of the month, when Taliban officials are demanding that the US adhere to the August 31 deadline of withdrawing troops from the country.

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Afghanistan war veteran and ex-CIA analyst accuses Biden of ‘gaslighting the country’ over disorderly evacuation effort

Afghanistan war veteran and ex-CIA analyst Matt Zeller speaks on MSNBC
Afghanistan war veteran and ex-CIA analyst Matt Zeller speaks on MSNBC

  • An Afghanistan veteran and ex-CIA analyst on MSNBC accused Biden of “gaslighting the country.”
  • Matt Zeller said he tried in February to present a plan to the White House to help evacuate Afghan SIV applicants.
  • Zeller also blamed Trump for shutting down the SIV program and said there’s “blame to go around.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Matt Zeller, a former CIA analyst who fought in Afghanistan and advocates on behalf of Afghan refugees, accused President Joe Biden of “gaslighting the country” over SIV applicant evacuations in a Tuesday appearance on MSNBC.

“Let’s be clear, the president has got to stop gaslighting the country,” Zeller said. “We could have done this in a very orderly fashion. A plan existed all along.”

Zeller’s remarks came as US forces continue to work on evacuating thousands of people from Afghanistan, a process that has been chaotic and even led to some Afghan civilian deaths.

The Afghanistan war veteran told MSNBC that he tried in February to present a plan to the White House that would’ve helped with the evacuation of special immigrant visa applicants – those Afghans who assisted US forces during the nearly 20-year long US mission in Afghanistan.

“Had they listened to us, we wouldn’t have been in this situation,” he said.

The interview took place just after news broke that CIA Director Bill Burns met with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul on Monday.

“That’s just how an end of a war that you lose goes I guess,” Zeller said in response. “I’m hoping that they’re making a deal.”

Zeller emphasized that the US would need to stay in Afghanistan beyond the August 31 withdrawal deadline, and said that Biden would be judged not be how many people he evacuated but how many people he left behind.

“There’s a lot of blame to go around on both sides of the aisle” when it comes to the evacuation of refugees, Zeller said, arguing that the Trump administration also contributed to the chaos.

“If the Trump administration hadn’t purposely shut down this program for four years, we wouldn’t have all these people that we needed to take at the last moment,” he added. “If the visa program had actually functioned as designed, many of them would have gotten out years ago.”

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Republican Sen. Ben Sasse says the US should maintain a ‘light footprint’ of troops in Afghanistan

Ben Sasse
Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

  • Sen. Ben Sasse on Sunday said that the US should have a “light footprint” of troops in Afghanistan.
  • Sasse called President Biden’s withdrawal strategy “a false choice” that “has never been true.”
  • He has called out both Biden and former President Trump for their handling of the Afghanistan War.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Sen. Ben Sasse said that the US should keep a “light footprint” of troops in Afghanistan to counter potential terrorists in the country with the reemergence of Taliban rule.

During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” the Nebraska Republican told host Chris Wallace that President Joe Biden should make it clear that the country could change its position on the US withdrawal if American citizens and allies are threatened.

He also rejected the notion that the US having a small presence in the country would be a problematic proposition.

“The false choice that the President has laid out again and again and again for months has never been true,” he said. “The choice has never been between zero troops and just withdrawing and giving the Taliban back a sanctuary to allow terrorists to plot attacks of international reach or on the other hand, having 150,000 occupying ground forces.”

Read more: How Americans who helped prosecute the Taliban are going down a ‘black hole’ to help their Afghan interpreters

He added: “So that was never the choice, and that’s always been false, we need an asset – light, light footprint but a forward deployment of special forces that can stop these kind of terror attacks.”

Sasse, who was reelected to a second term last year, has emerged as a major critic of Biden’s withdrawal strategy, slamming what he called the “Trump-Biden doctrine of weakness” and “the shameful, Saigon-like abandonment of Kabul” after the Taliban essentially took control of the country last week.

During the interview with Wallace, Sasse also said that Biden’s actions have created a risky scenario for the thousands of Americans in Afghanistan.

“They’ve put us in a situation where we have a hostage situation developing,” he said. “I don’t think the American people fully appreciate the danger and the peril into which the president has put us, because one RPG [rocket-propelled grenade], taking down a plane onto that runway means we’re stranded. The president needs to make sure that this hostage situation into which we are drifting, that the Taliban knows we will not stand for it.”

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