By Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA)
Bin Laden is dead, taken out by our brave U.S. Navy SEALS. The other 9/11 plotters have been killed or captured by U.S. and allied forces. The terror network behind the attacks, Al Qaeda, has been greatly diminished and prevented from conducting any other atrocities on American soil. All of this is a direct result of the persistence, courage, and might of the U.S. armed forces over the past two decades.
But these victories have come at a very steep price.
More than 2,450 American service members gave their lives in Afghanistan. More than 20,000 others were wounded. Along with the families of those who did not come home, these heroes and many, many others who served will be living with scars—seen and unseen—from the conflict for the rest of their lives. It is impossible to ever repay the debt owed to these brave women and men for the sacrifices each made to protect our nation, our liberty, and our very lives.
Many others contributed to these successes, including our friends and allies in Afghanistan and around the world and, of course, the U.S taxpayer. When it’s all added up, the U.S. spent upwards of $2 trillion for our efforts in Afghanistan the past 20 years. No other country has benefited more from taxpayers in recent years as Afghanistan, who has been the top recipient of U.S. foreign aid, according to the non-partisan group Open the Books.
As a result of these human and financial costs, there are no words to express the deep and troubling emotions stirred from witnessing the Taliban retake control of the country with ease before our troops and allies even departed.
To make matters worse, the Biden Administration’s hasty and reckless withdrawal has resulted in billions of dollars of U.S weapons and hardware intended to fight the Taliban in the very hands of Taliban fighters! From rifles, machine guns, ammunition, grenades, and night vision goggles, the enemy is now armed with some of the very best of our own military equipment. The Taliban could also now hold more than 2,000 armored vehicles, including U.S. Humvees and up to 40 aircraft—including Black Hawks and attack helicopters—and military drones, according to the current intelligence assessment.
It’s not just weapons and gear either. The Taliban has also seized control of facilities constructed by the U.S., such as an air force base that was holding thousands of prisoners, including Taliban fighters and senior Al Qaeda operatives. Border crossings in and out of the country constructed with tens of millions of dollars from the U.S. are now in Taliban control. Our embassy in Kabul, which cost more than $800 million to build, will soon be in enemy hands as well.
“Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now,” conceded a U.S. official.
It’s painful enough the country was essentially turned back over to the Taliban, but all the more disturbing that this haste allowed sophisticated military equipment to be surrendered to terrorists. And it’s possible these weapons could be handed over to U.S. adversaries, including China, Russia, and other militant terrorist groups that seek to do harm to America and our allies.
Securing U.S. assets should have been among the top priorities prior to announcing the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is why I am awarding my August 2021 Squeal Award to the U.S. Department of Defense for allowing our enemies to be armed with billions of dollars of American weapons and hardware.
That is also why I am joining with 24 of my Senate colleagues to demand a full accounting of the U.S. weapons and military equipment left in Afghanistan from the Secretary of Defense.
Do you have an example of government waste or inefficiencies that I should take a look at? Send me an email by clicking here.