House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called Monday for the chamber to return from its recess to consider legislation that would mandate reports on Americans left behind in Afghanistan, following President Biden’s decision to stick to an Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
McCarthy led GOP lawmakers, several of whom are veterans of the Afghanistan war, seeking a vote on a bill set to be re-introduced by Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. The bill would require the Biden administration to provide regular updates on Americans in Afghanistan and detail an ongoing evacuation plan, among other mandates.
The California lawmaker asserted “hundreds” of Americans are still on the ground in Afghanistan – contradicting the latest figures released by the State Department. He warned that Biden’s decision to maintain his original deadline has “ramifications beyond just Afghanistan.”
“The question will be for those Democratic members, are they going to stand behind the action, the decision to leave Americans behind? Because we will not,” McCarthy said. “We will not leave them behind. We need a plan to get them out and we need to have that voice tomorrow.”
The House is currently in recess until Sept. 20. GOP lawmakers will attempt to bring Gallagher’s bill to the floor during a pro forma session on Tuesday. However, it is unlikely that Pelosi will allow a vote on the measure.
Gallagher’s bill originally called on Congress to delay Biden’s withdrawal deadline until all Americans were evacuated. The Wisconsin congressman said the latest version of his bill would require the Biden administration to detail its evacuation plan, provide updates on Americans, military equipment and classified information left behind and prohibit funding for the Taliban.
The legislation also proposes that Congress adopt resolutions that all Americans will be brought home and that the U.S. not formally recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s government.
“It is time for Congress to step up and it is time for the Speaker to bring us back into session in order to pass this commonsense bill,” Gallagher said. “And shame on us if we sit on the sidelines and do nothing as Americans are trapped behind enemy lines.”
The Republican lawmakers warned of lasting repercussions due to the withdrawal and the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a former Navy SEAL who lost his right eye in the Afghanistan war, said the withdrawal left U.S. national security “at more risk than it has been in 20 years.”
“We didn’t lose the war, we didn’t end the war, but we did give up a strategic position in that war, in that fight,” Crenshaw said. “It will now be extremely difficult to deter or deny terrorist safe-havens.”
Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., also a veteran of the war, said Biden “lied to the American people” about how quickly the Taliban would retake the country. He also ripped the administration for failing to prevent the Taliban from capturing U.S. military equipment.
“Because of the negligence, the hasty and incompetent withdrawal led by this commander-in-chief, all of the $85 billion worth of equipment has been left behind and fallen into the hands of the Taliban,” Banks said. “There was never a plan by this administration or the Pentagon to destroy or evacuate any of that equipment.”
Top Biden administration officials have argued the withdrawal by the Aug. 31 deadline was justified due to progress in evacuation efforts and the ongoing risk to U.S. forces in the country. More than 123,000 people were evacuated during the operation, including 6,000 American citizens.
Biden is expected to address the nation on Tuesday regarding his decision not to extend the withdrawal timeline.