- Ted Cruz criticized the Biden administration’s decision to vacate Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base.
- Bagram was once the largest US military base in the country but has since fallen to the Taliban.
- GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ben Sasse have both called on Biden to retake the key base.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Sen. Ted Cruz criticized the Biden administration’s decision to vacate Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base in July on Friday, in the aftermath of Thursday’s terrorist attack near the Kabul airport that killed at least 169 Afghans and 13 US service members.
Bagram, which was once the largest US military base in the country but has since fallen to the Taliban, is roughly 40 miles (64km) from Kabul. The facility was abandoned by the US ahead of the August 31 troop deadline from Afghanistan.
The Texas Republican took to Twitter and posted a tweet from Fox News commentator Brit Hume, who tweeted out an August statement from Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who spoke of the need to leave Bagram to secure the US Embassy in Kabul.
“Our task given to us at that time, our task was to protect the embassy in order for the embassy personnel to continue to function with their consular service and all that,” Milley said at the time. “If we were to keep both Bagram and the embassy going, that would be a significant number of military forces that would have exceeded what we had or stayed the same or exceeded what we had. So we had to collapse one or the other, and a decision was made.”
Cruz, who has been highly critical of the Biden administration’s Afghanistan strategy, tweeted that the US leaving Bagram was “catastrophic.”
“What Milley said on 8/18 is exactly what DoD said on our briefing today: They abandoned Bagram bc they were ordered to reduce troop levels below that needed to maintain both Bagram & embassy security. This political decision- to close Bagram BEFORE evacuation – proved catastrophic,” he wrote.
In addition to Cruz, a number of other GOP lawmakers, including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, have decried the decision to leave Bagram. Graham and Sasse have urged President Joe Biden to retake the facility.
Biden during a Thursday address at the White House was asked if he rejected calls to recapture the base.
“On the tactical questions of how to conduct an evacuation or a war, I gather up all the major military personnel that are in Afghanistan – the commanders, as well as the Pentagon,” he said. “And I ask for their best military judgment: what would be the most efficient way to accomplish the mission.”
He added: “They concluded – the military – that Bagram was not much value added, that it was much wiser to focus on Kabul. And so, I followed that recommendation.”
With the August 31 withdrawal deadline quickly approaching, Biden has so far stuck with the date to finish evacuating additional Americans and Afghan allies from the Kabul airport.
As of Friday, the US has evacuated more than 109,000 people from Afghanistan since August 14.