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Inland Northwest politicians call for swift evacuation after attack at Kabul aiport

UPDATED: Fri., Aug. 27, 2021

Members of the Inland Northwest's congressional delegation reacted with condolences and demands for swift action following two attacks at the Kabul airport that killed U.S. service members and dozens of Afghan citizens hoping to escape the country.  (J. Scott Applewhite)
Members of the Inland Northwest's congressional delegation reacted with condolences and demands for swift action following two attacks at the Kabul airport that killed U.S. service members and dozens of Afghan citizens hoping to escape the country. (J. Scott Applewhite)

After an attack at the Kabul airport left 13 U.S. service members dead, members of Congress representing the Inland Northwest expressed condolences and pushed for a quick evacuation from Afghanistan. Republicans blamed President Biden for what they called his “failed withdrawal.”

Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans trying to flee the country on Thursday, just over a week after the Taliban’s quick takeover of the city .

At least 60 Afghans, 11 U.S. Marines and one Navy medic died {%%note} {/%%note}, the Associated Press initially reported. Another U.S. service member died hours later. Eighteen service members and more than 140 Afghans were wounded, although officials have said the toll could grow.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican who represents Eastern Washington, said in a statement that Americans are less safe today because of what she called Biden’s failed leadership. She called the attack “our worst fear becoming a reality.”

“The decision to pull out troops before getting Americans out first was a major miscalculation, and it has created the very real national security and humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes,” she said in a statement.

She called on Biden to consider delaying his Aug. 31 deadline, when the U.S. is set to end its 20-year presence in the country. Biden said Tuesday he would be sticking to that deadline. The Taliban have insisted foreign troops must be out by that deadline, according to the Associated Press.

Thousands of Afghans and Americans have fled to the airport in the last week, hoping to leave the country before Aug. 31. The U.S. Embassy as well as British and Australian governments issued warnings to their citizens this week to stay away from the airport.

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, also a Republican, had thoughts similar to McMorris Rodgers’, calling on Biden to do more to secure the lives of Americans and Afghans, “no matter how long it takes.”

“Arbitrary deadlines do not matter when so many lives are at stake,” he said.

U.S. officials said the Thursday attack was believed to have been carried out by the Islamic State group, according to the Associated Press.

Idaho Rep. Russ Fulcher called the attack “a tragedy that should have been avoided.”

“President Biden must answer for this disaster and immediately explain how he plans to uphold his duty as Commander in Chief, using every available resource to safely extract the Americans still left behind in this haphazard withdrawal,” Fulcher wrote Thursday in a tweet.

Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call Congress into session to work with the Biden administration “to pursue appropriate measures to prevent further violence in this appalling situation.”

Simpson, a Republican, called on Biden to consider “all available options” to get American troops, citizens, allies and partners out of the country.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican who represent a Central Washington district in Congress, called on the president to use the force of the U.S. military to respond to the incident and get Americans and allies to safety.

In his statement released on Twitter, Newhouse quoted Biden saying last week any loss of Americans would be met with the force of the U.S. military.

“It’s time to uphold that commitment,” Newhouse wrote.

Sen. Patty Murray took to Twitter to express their her condolences.

“As we await further details, I will keep pushing for fast and safe evacuations for Americans and our partners,” Murray, a Democrat, wrote.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted the attack shows how “critical” the evacuation efforts are. Inslee sent a letter to Biden on Thursday reaffirming the state’s support for refugees.

State and local agencies are currently mobilizing to coordinate services as the state prepares for the arrival of new refugees, Inslee, a Democrat, wrote.

“I hope that you work to ensure services are readily available without regard to visa status – including resettlement programming, work authorization, and financial assistance – and to mitigate the imposition of costs or fees onto these vulnerable individuals,” he wrote.

Editor’s note: U.S. Rep. Russ Fulcher’s first name has been corrected. 

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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