Afghans flee to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday. REUTERS

The San Diego Congressional delegation reacted to the fall of Kabul with a mix of criticism and resignation, but all stressed that former American allies must be evacuated.

“Nearly 20 years ago, we began our mission in Afghanistan with the goal of defeating the terrorists who were responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11 and reducing the potential for additional terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. We completed that mission,” said Rep. Mike Levin on Monday.

He said Americans “owe the servicemembers who sacrificed in Afghanistan — including many deployed from Camp Pendleton — and their families a debt of gratitude that we can never fully repay.”

Levin called for “an accounting of why it went wrong,” but said the focus needs to be on “completing a safe withdrawal of American personnel and Afghans who supported our mission.”

Rep. Sara Jacobs, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, has repeatedly stressed her support for leaving Afghanistan. But over the weekend she described the current situation as “a tough day for everyone” and called for evacuating our allies.

“The priority right now has to be evacuating as many people as possible as quickly as possible. The White House needs to cut the red tape, work with us in Congress, and do everything we can to get those fearing for their lives out of harm’s way,” Jacobs said on Monday.

“And let’s be clear, the images we are seeing out of Afghanistan right now are not a reason to keep troops on the ground forever. I still wholeheartedly agree with President Biden’s decision to withdraw our military troops from Afghanistan,” she said.

Rep. Scott Peters called the situation ” truly tragic and catastrophic” and said the United States “must remain laser-focused on evacuating Americans and our allies out of Afghanistan.”

He noted that San Diego is home to many veterans who served in Afghanistan and said their service was not in vain.

“The invasion of Afghanistan ultimately brought Osama Bin Laden to justice and dealt a major blow to al-Qaeda. Your nation is grateful, proud and here to support you,” Peters said.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the sole Republican member of the delegation, called for reconvening the House of Representatives to uncover “the full truth of this fiasco.”

“Our departure from Afghanistan did not have to descend into this: A forced flight, the need for emergency military reinforcements and panicked calls for international aid. The extent of the Biden Administration’s foreign policy naïveté hasn’t been seen in a White House since Jimmy Carter’s administration,” said Issa.

He criticized President Biden for being “largely absent over the course of the weekend” while the Taliban seized the capital.

Biden addressed the nation shortly after 1 p.m. Pacific time on Monday, saying that he “stood squarely behind” his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and rejected criticism of the chaotic withdrawal.

He said the mission of the United States was never supposed to be nation building and blamed the takeover on the unwillingness of the Afghan army to fight the militant group.

“I stand squarely behind my decision,” Biden said. “After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there.”

“The truth is: this did unfold more quickly than we anticipated. So what’s happened? Afghanistan political leaders gave up and fled the country. The Afghan military gave up, sometimes without trying to fight,” he said.

But he issued a warning to Taliban leaders: let the U.S. withdrawal proceed unimpeded or face “devastating force.”

Updated at 5:25 p.m., Monday, Aug. 16, 2021

Reuters contributed to this article.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.