Utah congressman wants Biden to answer for what went wrong in Afghanistan

Rep. Blake Moore’s legislation would also sanction Taliban leaders.

(AP) Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint near the US embassy that was previously manned by American troops, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. The Taliban declared an "amnesty" across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government Tuesday, seeking to convince a wary population that they have changed a day after deadly chaos gripped the main airport as desperate crowds tried to flee the country.

A Utah congressman wants to force the Biden administration to explain what plans were made for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, what intelligence it received about the Taliban’s military offensive, and how the Taliban takeover changes the potential terrorist threat.

Rep. Blake Moore, a Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee, announced Friday that he’s sponsoring new legislation, which he calls the Afghanistan Accountability Act.

Beyond mandating a sweeping federal report on the bungled evacuation and its effects moving forward, Moore’s bill would also sanction Taliban leaders. It would require the State Department to determine if the Taliban meets the definition of a foreign terrorist organization, and it would require the regular reporting on human rights abuses.

“The president’s decision to pursue a Sept. 11 deadline regardless of the safety of U.S. citizens and Afghan individuals who supported U.S. efforts was theatrical and disturbing,” Moore said in a statement. “Without a reasonable exit plan, the Taliban eroded decades of progress in just four months.”

Moore, serving his first term in the U.S. House, said he quickly drafted and filed this bill “to get answers for my constituents and ensure that an absence of presidential leadership on this scale will never happen again.”

President Joe Biden is not backing away from his decision to end the 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan, and while he acknowledged the Taliban’s sweep through the country happened faster than he expected, he said that shows the futility of the U.S. staying longer.

Biden has argued that the Afghan military, heavily financed and trained by the United States, should have fought more aggressively for control of the country.

The president has sent 6,000 troops back into Afghanistan to secure Kabul’s airport and help evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who helped the U.S. military. This is a process that will likely stretch on for weeks.

On Friday, Biden promised to get every American out and praised the military for how it is handling the process.

“We will get you home,” he said.

Utah’s six congressional members, who are all Republicans, have criticized Biden for the fall of Kabul and the rushed withdrawal.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, issued a statement Thursday, arguing that Biden has failed to live up to the job of commander in chief by not more aggressively providing safe passage to Americans and those who qualify for Afghan special immigrant visas.

“President Biden needs to take responsibility for the situation,” Stewart said, “and start operating with a supreme sense of urgency.”

Moore said the focus right now is on getting people out of Afghanistan and that his office, like those of other members of Congress, is helping to get people visas.

He sees his bill as the next step — learning from what went wrong. He’s particularly focused on comments from Biden and military leaders in which they dismissed the idea of a quick Taliban win or a chaotic withdrawal.

“There seemed to be an overconfidence that this wouldn’t happen,” Moore said.

But it did.

He hopes his legislation or the work of congressional committees can explain why.