Iowa senators say withdrawal from Afghanistan is a mistake

By: and - July 14, 2021 12:58 pm

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst met with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. (Photo courtesy of Ernst press release)

Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst say the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is dangerous and could lead to Taliban control.

President Joe Biden announced in April that he would withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 attack. In an address last week, Biden said that the U.S. had succeeded in its initial mission to combat terrorism after the attack and should not stay in the country to “nation-build.”

Ernst, a combat veteran during the Iraq war, told Iowa reporters Wednesday that the withdrawal of troops was haphazard and an attempt to “score a quick political headline.”

“Many of the threats that brought us to Afghanistan in the first place are spreading through the region,” she said. “The Taliban is gaining strength and threatening the Afghanistan government.”

The BBC reported Wednesday that the Taliban took a key border post between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the latest in a series of rapid advances through the country. 

Sen. Chuck Grassley speaks on the Senate floor on March 20, 2020. (Screen shot from video provided by Grassley’s office)

Grassley agreed that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is a mistake.

“All you have to do is go back to 2001 when the Taliban took over the country, and women had no rights,” Grassley said. “In America, we believe women ought to have rights and we try to spread our moral values around the world. So I obviously think this is going to be tragic if the Taliban takes over the country entirely.”

Ernst and Grassley join many establishment Republicans who object to the withdrawal. Former President George W. Bush, who started U.S. involvement in the war after the 9/11 attacks, this week called the troop withdrawal a mistake. Bush told CNN the consequences will be “unbelievably bad,” with women and girls suffering “unspeakable harm.” 

But it’s not strictly a party-line issue: Former President Donald Trump had negotiated for an exit date in May and promised to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. Ernst told reporters that she objected to Trump’s plan to withdraw just as she objects to Biden’s.

Senators weigh in on interpreter facing deportation

As troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the U.S. is also moving Afghan allies interpreters, translators and drivers to other countries for safety. Individuals who helped the U.S. troops will be allowed to apply for visas. 

One such interpreter is an Iowan who is fighting deportation back to Afghanistan. Zalmay Niazy has lived in Iowa Falls since 2015, Iowa Public Radio reported. Niazy has been denied political asylum but is hoping immigration judges will allow him to stay in Iowa. 

“If I get a denial from the court, that will be a death sentence for me to go back home,” Niazy told IPR in June.

Grassley, R-Iowa, said Niazy has yet to formally apply through one government program that might help. 

“He’s never made an application under the specific program that we have to people who help our military get into the country,” Grassley said. The case is still in the courts, he added. 

Ernst said she and Grassley had “done everything we can do” to help Niazy. She said it’s up to the State Department and the Biden administration to decide his case. 

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Senior reporter Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.