Sinema, Kelly question Biden’s Afghanistan evacuation plan
PHOENIX — Arizona’s two Democratic U.S. senators have their concerns about President Joe Biden and his administration’s plan to evacuate U.S. citizens from Afghanistan in light of the country’s takeover by the Taliban.
Kyrsten Sinema, the state’s senior senator, said Tuesday that Biden needs to have a better, more organized plan to evacuate Americans citizens.
Biden stuck with an Aug. 31 deadline for completing the U.S-led evacuation from Afghanistan amid a growing fear of extremist attacks at the Kabul airport.
“It is crystal clear that the intelligence that the United States military and our intelligence assets knew that this would be difficult and that it was likely that the Taliban would regain control,” Sinema told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad.
“If you’re going to leave, you need to have a plan to do so. You need to do it in an orderly way that protects Americans and our Afghan allies.”
Sen. Mark Kelly, speaking at a Phoenix event Tuesday, said he wasn’t pleased that the evacuation plan was set to come to an end in a week.
Kelly said more time was needed, calling the likelihood all U.S. citizens and others are evacuated by the deadline “a significant challenge.”
“I think the timeline is less important,” Kelly said. “For me, it’s what can we do to get the U.S. citizens… out of the country.”
Pressure from U.S. allies, Democratic and Republican lawmakers, veterans groups and refugee organizations has grown for Biden to extend his deadline, which he set well before the Taliban completed its lightning takeover of Afghanistan on Aug. 15.
It remains unclear whether the airlift from Kabul’s international airport can get out all American citizens and other foreigners by next Tuesday, as well as former translators and other at-risk Afghans who fear for their lives under Taliban rule.
The chief Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, said Aug. 31 leaves enough time to get all Americans out, but he was less specific about completing the evacuation of all at-risk Afghans.
“A better job needs to be done immediately with a very clear message that the United States maintains its relationship with our global allies, that we are opposed to terrorism and that we will always stand to support those who supported us,” Sinema said.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino and The Associated Press contributed to this report.