Rep. Mike Waltz Slams Biden’s ‘Callous, Incompetent’ Afghan Withdrawal: ‘Never Been More Disgusted with My Own Government’

Representative Mike Waltz, a Republican from Florida, speaks during a news conference foll
Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration’s “callous, cold-hearted, incompetent” withdrawal from Afghanistan was a “failure at leadership at the most senior levels,” according to Republican lawmaker Mike Waltz, who claimed he had “never been more disgusted with my own government” which he accused of having “betrayed” veterans, as he argued that neither the Taliban, al Qaeda, nor ISIS has yet to “get the memo” the war is over.

During Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Biden administration’s 2021 emergency evacuation from Afghanistan, Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, heard testimony from veterans and Afghan evacuation groups concerning the “disastrous” withdrawal of American troops from the area.

Waltz, who served as a Special Forces commander in Afghanistan and currently serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, described the “deeply personal” events, relaying how a personal interpreter of his whom he fought alongside was executed by the Taliban.

“I know this is painful,” he began, “and it’s deeply personal. It’s deeply personal to many of us.” 

“I have here pictures of one of my interpreters, Spartacus, who was beheaded by the Taliban,” he continued. “A young man of 19 years old who only wished to one day come to America as he was literally saving my life.”

Waltz, a colonel in the National Guard as well as a former White House and Pentagon policy adviser and the first Green Beret to be elected to Congress, also presented a picture of an interpreter who was able to escape through the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghans.

“I have here a picture of Rahim who we did manage to get out on the SIV program; I’m standing next to him building a well for his village,” he said.

However, Waltz explained the reality for such escapees remains difficult. 

“What did the Taliban do when we ‘successfully’ — since this was such an outstanding ‘success’ — get these people out? They’re hunting down his family,” he said, noting:

They’ve captured his cousin, tied him up behind a Taliban truck, [dragged] him through the village, and killed him, [all in order] to say: ‘Don’t you dare ever work for America or work with America, or work with the West again.’ And they’ve also beaten his brothers nearly to death.

“So even when we’re ‘successful,’ they start targeting and going after the families,” he added.

Addressing Allied Airlift 21 executive chairman Francis Hoang and Task Force Pineapple founder Lt. Col. (Ret.) David Scott Mann, who both worked to help evacuate Americans and allies from Afghanistan, Waltz suggested the two had to become their “own state department.” 

“You had to charter international flights, you had to arrange country clearances, [and] you had to deal with international borders because the State Department failed,” he said. 

“Is that an accurate statement?” he asked. “Do you disagree with that statement?”

“I don’t disagree with that, congressman,” replied Mann. 

“The State Department found itself in a very difficult situation with very little guidance, as far as we can tell, no advanced planning for this exact scenario and unclear lines of authority,” replied Hoang.

“And so while many individuals at the State Department tried their best to help us, they found themselves hamstrung by the bureaucracy,” he added. 

As a result, Waltz asserted that the evacuation was a “failure at leadership at the most senior levels of the [Biden] State Department and the White House.”

He then asked Mann if American veterans of his Task Force Pineapple — founded by Mann to rescue Afghan allies in danger — had “exhausted their personal savings trying to help these Afghans.” 

“I do,” replied Mann, noting a friend in the veteran-run Moral Compass Federation who claimed “so many of our veterans have basically taken on an Uncle Sam-size problem with their pension funds.” 

He also noted members that “exhausted their children’s 529 plans,” some whose marriages “survived multiple deployments” but are now heading to divorce, and others who have committed or considered committing suicide as a result.

Waltz mentioned his own operations officer who was “now dead because of this moral injury,” adding that “there’s been a 40 percent increase just in the last anniversary in texts to the suicide hotline.”

When asked by Waltz if it was “fair to say these veterans feel betrayed by their own government,” Mann responded in the affirmative, adding that it was quite “hurtful” that President Biden did not even mention the “successful” Afghanistan operation in two State of the Union addresses. 

Waltz questioned whether the war in Afghanistan had indeed reached its conclusion:

Is this war over? Does anybody think this war is over? Because we’ve had members of this committee, the House Foreign Relations Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee, the United States government, United States House of Representatives and the President of [the] United States and the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State celebrate the fact that the war is over. Did the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, get the memo that we decided — that the president decided — the war was over? 

Referencing the over 80,000 people still “trapped behind enemy lines,” Waltz described a “desperate e-mail” he received from an interpreter that morning.

“Today, this morning at 9:23 AM, I received a desperate e-mail from one of my interpreters who was formerly a school teacher but decided to work for a better future for women and children in Afghanistan,” he said. “He’s now being hunted; he’s been in hiding for two years.”

“Do you think he thinks this war is over?” he asked. “Are the Taliban systematically hunting these people down? Anybody disagree with that; that this is top down, top driven?”  

Arguing that “what happens in Afghanistan does not and will not stay in Afghanistan,” Waltz recalled how “members of this committee celebrated when President Obama pulled us out of Iraq in 2011 with no follow-on plan [and then the] ISIS Caliphate comes roaring in three years later and we now have more military members back dealing with that than when we left in 2011.”

“They were wrong then, and they’re wrong now,” he stated. 

Waltz concluded by simultaneously expressing pride in Americans, and this group of veterans in particular, and “disgust” in the Biden administration. 

“I’ll just close with saying I have never been more proud of my fellow Americans and veterans as I am with this group,” he said. “But I’ve also never been more disgusted with my own government.” 

“This was a callous, cold-hearted incompetent episode on the part of this administration, and it is not worthy of the men and women that we all carry on these bracelets and their sacrifice,” he added. 

Previously, Waltz accused President Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin of “selling this country a fiction” that the U.S. could manage a resurgence of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan “with nothing” there, following the U.S. pullout of troops.

The Biden administration has continuously come under fire for a lack of coordinated planning in the 2021 summer withdrawal of U.S. troops and the swift Taliban takeover of the country despite the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. and NATO over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces.

Last month, top House Oversight Committee Republicans launched a probe into the president’s deadly Afghanistan withdrawal, demanding all associated documents and communications from the Biden administration, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.


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