A bipartisan group of lawmakers and activists renewed efforts to pressure the Biden administration into evacuating thousands of Americans and Afghan allies who remain in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.
House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas) led several lawmakers, including former Green Beret Rep. Mike Waltz (R., Fla.) and former diplomats Reps. Tom Malinowski (D., N.J.) and Andy Kim (D., N.J.), alongside advocates for the Afghan people in a Wednesday press conference urging the Biden administration to act decisively and rescue the thousands stuck in Afghanistan.
The bloc pushed back against the Biden administration, which said it will comply with the Aug. 31 deadline for a full withdrawal of U.S. troops. Top Biden personnel, such as national security adviser Jake Sullivan, have said they cannot guarantee the safe retrieval of Americans from Afghanistan. At least one American—Navy veteran Mark Frerichs—remains in Taliban custody.
Waltz castigated the Biden administration for its failure to act. The Florida congressman said his office and many others have taken on responsibilities in bringing Americans home from Afghanistan, as diplomats in the State Department and elsewhere have been unable to complete the job themselves.
"We’ve had to have congressional offices devote their entire staffs now to connecting the dots and doing what needs to be done," Waltz said. "That’s wrong. We’re having to fight through our own bureaucracy to help fellow Americans and to help those who served with us.... But briefing after briefing, we hear this happy talk."
Chase Millsap, a Marine veteran and advocate for those left behind in Afghanistan, pleaded with President Joe Biden to do more to ensure the safe return of Americans and Afghans alike.
"I'm getting texts every single minute from others who are trying to get there," Millsap said, speaking about those fleeing to the airport in Kabul. "Right now there’s a gap.... I’m asking the president to please help us shorten that gap."
Democrats also expressed dissatisfaction with the efforts to retrieve those left behind. Kim spoke at length about the duty of lawmakers to protect and serve citizens in danger, asking the Biden administration to reconsider its timeline for withdrawal.
Though the Biden administration is praising its handling of the Afghanistan evacuation—White House chief of staff Ron Klain has taken to Twitter to amplify many messages applauding the withdrawal—challenges remain in bringing back both American citizens and Afghan translators. The Taliban reportedly have blocked access to Kabul’s airport and are screening passengers before they are allowed to leave, potentially putting thousands of pro-U.S. Afghans and U.S. citizens at risk.
"We’re all standing here united as Republicans and Democrats for what’s right," McCaul said. "And that’s to save those left behind and that’s what we stand for as a nation."