- Members of Congress reacted to the deadly explosions outside of Kabul airport on Thursday.
- Democrats denounced the blasts and said the US will continue its evacuation efforts in Afghanistan.
- Some Republicans blamed Biden over the killings of US service members and Afghan civilians.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Members of Congress swiftly reacted to the explosions near the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, which killed at least 12 US service members and 60 Afghan civilians.
Top Democrats denounced the deadly blasts and said efforts to evacuate Americans and Afghans who assisted the US in the 20-year War in Afghanistan will continue.
“I strongly condemn this act of terrorism and it must be clear to the world that the terrorists who perpetrated this will be sought and brought to justice,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement. US officials believe the attacks were carried out by ISIS-K, the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan and sworn enemy of the Taliban.
“I will continue to monitor the situation in Kabul and our evacuation efforts,” Schumer added.
Rep. Adam Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said he’s “devastated” about the killings of American service members and Afghan civilians.
“While it is too early to draw any conclusions, ISIS-K had a clear motivation to disrupt our efforts,” Schiff said in a statement. “My prayers are with our brave servicemembers as they continue these vital evacuations.”
Sen. Bob Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned the attack in the “strongest and most forceful of terms.”
“As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security,” he said in a statement.
On the other side of the aisle, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reconvene the House, which is on its August recess, so members may be “briefed thoroughly and comprehensively by the Biden Administration” on the situation in Afghanistan.
“It is time for Congress to act quickly to save lives,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Our enemies have taken advantage of the chaotic nature of the withdrawal.”
-Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 26, 2021
Pelosi’s spokesperson Drew Hammill shot back at McCarthy in a tweet, writing: “What’s not going to help evacuate American citizens is more empty stunts & distraction from the Minority Leader who sat idly by as Pres. Trump proudly negotiated with the Taliban.”
“The Biden Administration has repeatedly briefed the Congress & providing frequent updates each day,” Hammill added.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the deaths of the US service members “sickening” and “enraging.”
McConnell was a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump’s plan to pullout of Afghanistan and similarly disagreed with President Joe Biden’s decision to do so.
“Terrible things happen when terrorists are allowed to operate freely,” the top Republican said. “This murderous attack offers the clearest possible reminder that terrorists will not stop fighting the United States just because our politicians grow tired of fighting them.”
“We need to redouble our global efforts to confront these barbarian enemies who want to kill Americans and attack our homeland,” he added.
Other Republicans went further in their criticism of the White House, claiming that Biden is responsible for the deaths of US service members on Thursday.
Freshman Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina both tweeted that Biden has “blood” on his “hands.”
-Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) August 26, 2021
-Rep. Madison Cawthorn (@RepCawthorn) August 26, 2021
Republican Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, who voted in favor of former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment, called for Biden’s resignation in light of Thursday’s news.
“Do the American people a favor. Resign and turn the job over to someone who can handle it,” Rice said.
Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri likewise urged Biden to step down from office.
“Joe Biden is responsible. It is now clear beyond all doubt that he has neither the capacity nor the will to lead. He must resign,” Hawley said.
-Sen. Kevin Cramer (@SenKevinCramer) August 26, 2021
Some GOP members used the moment to once again pressure Biden to extend the August 31 deadline to remove US troops from Afghanistan and ensure that Americans and Afghans are safely evacuated out of the country.
“You are the Commander-in-Chief, sir; reverse course and fight for our people,” Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska said. “This is likely to get worse, and weakness will accelerate the bloodshed.”
“Mr. President, there is a clear choice before you now: Either rip up the August 31 deadline and defend evacuation routes – by expanding the perimeter around the Kabul airport or by retaking Bagram – or leave our people behind in your retreat,” he added.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who’s called for Biden’s impeachment over his handling of the Afghanistan pullout, also demanded a reopening of the Bagram air base to assist evacuations.
“I urge the Biden Administration to reestablish our presence in Bagram as an alternative to the Kabul airport so that we do not leave our fellow citizens and thousands of Afghan allies behind,” Graham said. “It is not a capability problem, but a problem of will.”