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Rep. Michael Waltz: We can still save Afghanistan but we need bold leadership – now

The devastation in Afghanistan is heartbreaking and infuriating.

The Taliban are barreling towards seizing control of the country and could very well take Kabul before the 20th anniversary of September 11th.  In their wake, Al Qaeda is poised to come roaring back and attack America, once again.

As an American, I’m enraged that the sacrifices of so many will have been made in vain.

As a Congressman, I’m tormented by seeing the nightmare unfold that I worked so hard to try to prevent. As a Green Beret, I’m fearful for my abandoned Afghan interpreters who have been given a death sentence by the Taliban because they joined America in our fight for freedom over terror.

As a father, I’m sickened by what’s to come for the Afghan women and girls that are being mercilessly abused by the Taliban and sold into sex slavery.

It was only a month ago when President Biden declared “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.”

It’s unclear whether Biden is clueless or heartless or both.  But he is living up to his reputation of being “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” as described by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. It’s worth remembering that Biden also opposed the raid to kill Usama Bin Laden. But there is still time to save Afghanistan

To put a stop to this unfolding strategic train wreck, President Biden will need to find the fortitude to drastically change our strategic direction, now.

First, President Biden can crush the Taliban offensive by committing American air power to support the Afghan Army. The Taliban are in the open and exposed as they maneuver to surround Afghan cities. Just as we did in 2001, small groups of special forces partnered with the Air Force will make a dramatic impact and reverse the Taliban’s psychological narrative that victory is inevitable. Second, Biden should send a very clear message to the Taliban’s backers in Pakistan that enough is enough. The Pakistani military is integral in the Taliban’s resurgence. At best, the Pakistanis are turning their backs and complicit in what’s happening.  At worst, they’re actively aiding and equipping the Taliban. The U.S. must suspend all aid and consider sanctions on key military and intelligence officials.

Finally, he must shelve our feckless efforts to negotiate with brutal terrorists until the situation is stabilized militarily. The President should fire U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad whose diplomatic strategy has failed spectacularly. Khalilzad convinced the last two administrations that the Taliban had changed, were interested in governing, and cared about diplomacy and peace.

In just one of my multiple deployments, we witnessed the Taliban machine gun a girl’s school with the girls still in it, burn clinics for treating women, and fire on my soldiers while hiding behind civilians. I can tell you from first-hand experience the only negotiation they care about is one that brings them to power at the end of an AK-47. Their brutality is once again on full display for the world.

The Taliban only understand strength and leverage. Continuing to beg them to come to the table diplomatically only serves to embolden their stature amongst Islamic extremist groups.

It was stunning to see White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki state that the Taliban needs to “consider its role in the international community.”  The Taliban could care less whether they are invited to European Embassy cocktail parties. They care about brutal control. 

As the U.S. now sends troops to Kabul to evacuate the U.S. Embassy, President Biden should think hard about avoiding his own Saigon moment. Should Afghanistan fall, thousands will die and the homeland will find itself under threat. One way or another, our soldiers will have to go back; but without local bases, far less intelligence, and local allies that have been decimated.

When this happens, the blood of every one of them will be on Biden’s hands.

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