Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, called President Biden’s handling of the troop withdrawal from the country “disastrous” and stressed that the president “needs to commit to getting out every American” from behind Taliban lines.
Cotton made the comments during an exclusive interview with Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” where he stressed that the “chaos” in Afghanistan is “tragic” and “heartbreaking” for “so many veterans who served in Afghanistan and their Gold Star families.
The Arkansas senator also called the president’s withdrawal “ill-conceived” and “ill-planned,” noting that there are “anywhere from 10 to 15,000 Americans stranded behind Taliban lines,” who cannot get to the airport.
“In effect these Americans are hostages to the Taliban,” Cotton said.
He also called out Biden by pointing to comments from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who contradicted the president on Friday.
Fox News had reported that, according to two lawmakers, Austin told House members on a phone call that multiple Americans trying to reach the Kabul airport have been beaten by Taliban fighters.
Austin called the beatings “unacceptable,” a person on the phone call told Fox News. Austin’s remarks starkly contrasted with what Biden told reporters after his speech on Friday.
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When asked about reports that some Americans were being blocked from reaching Hamid Karzai International Airport for evacuation, Biden denied that any Americans were having such trouble.
“To the best of our knowledge, the Taliban checkpoints, they are letting through people showing American passports,” Biden said, adding that “we know of no circumstance where American citizens, carrying an American passport,” were being blocked from reaching the airport.
“My office has been on the phone with hundreds and hundreds of Americans and Afghans who report Taliban gains outside the airport, beating people with sticks and pipes and chains, confiscating passports, confiscating visas,” Cotton told host Maria Bartiromo, stressing that currently there is no “free passage” to the airport.
Cotton said President Biden needs to “stop playing word games” and must be “clear” in his efforts to get every American out of the region.
A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
Cotton also warned of the long-term ramifications of Biden’s “disastrous” withdrawal and the message that it sends to the rest of the world.
“There’s the immediate threat from Afghanistan,” Cotton noted, saying it is likely that there will be a “concentration of foreign terrorists” in the region with “more terrorists surging to Afghanistan on the heels of the Taliban’s victory here and because of its remote geography.”
He pointed out that the area is “hundreds of miles away from the oceans” and “surrounded by unfriendly neighbors, unlike countries in the Middle East and Africa, like Somalia, Yemen and Syria, where our military has the opportunity and the ability to strike against terrorist targets.”
He added that the “chaos” that is ensuing portrays “Biden’s impotence” to the rest of the world.
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“You already see countries like China threatening Taiwan, saying America won’t come to their aid,” Cotton told Bartiromo. “So this is going to reverberate, unfortunately, for many years to come.”
Fox News’ Peter Hasson contributed to this report.