Service members react to fall of Afghanistan on ‘Fox & Friends First’
More U.S. troops head back to Kabul. Insight from Lt. Col. Donald Arias, Sgt. William Bee and Army veteran Seth Jahn on the Middle East crisis.
Biden administration officials appear to have been caught flat-footed by the Taliban’s rapid capture of Kabul as the Pentagon and State Department race to evacuate thousands of Americans and Afghan allies from Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the whole world is watching.
Staff Sgt. William Bee, who was one of the first Marines to deploy to the country after Sept. 11, 2001, told Fox News Wednesday evening that his wife ordered him to stop watching so much news coverage after he grew irate over some of the developments.
“It wasn’t too much trouble getting in there,” Bee said. “So why was it such a problem getting everybody out?”
Bee, who nearly died more than once in Afghanistan and was photographed ducking for cover as a Taliban sniper’s bullet exploded on a stone wall inches from his head in 2008, said it was ludicrous to pull out the way U.S. forces did and that a private first class earning one-tenth of what the Joint Chiefs of Staff are paid could have come up with a better solution.
FILE PHOTO: Sgt. William Olas Bee, a U.S. Marine from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, has a close call after Taliban fighters opened fire near Garmser in Helmand Province of Afghanistan May 18, 2008. The Marine was not injured. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo
(REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo)
“We pay the Joint Chiefs $16,000 a month; we pay a PFC $1,600 a month, and I guarantee you, if I ask a PFC, hey put your crayons down, if you let me know a good way to get everybody out of Afghanistan. And he could have came up with a better program,” he said.
And he said Biden’s national security advisers should have taken a page from Gen. Jim Mattis and resigned if they had seen any problems with the withdrawal.
“I haven’t even heard anything from the secretary of defense,” Bee said. “None of the Joint Chiefs said, ‘Hey, this is a stupid plan. I would rather surrender my friggin’ commission than let this happen.’”
He said he initially hoped the abrupt timeline was just a ploy by the president to lure out the Taliban and crush their offensive with a surprise counterattack.
“Nope, he really just straight-up duck tailed and ran,” he said.
The Biden administration had delayed a Trump-era plan to withdraw by May 1 before announcing in April that U.S. forces would leave the country before Sept. 11, 2021. That date marks 20 years since the terror attacks that prompted the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to begin with.
In this Aug. 11, 2021, photo William Bee poses for a photo next to a bookshelf that displays items from his families military service including his Purple Heart at his home in Jacksonville, N.C. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
Peace talks between the toppled Afghan government and Taliban leaders had been underway in Doha, Qatar, but Taliban fighters were grabbing territory and taking control of infrastructure the entire time, according to a Defense Department Inspector General report on the situation in Afghanistan from January to March of this year.
And over the past two weeks, Taliban forces swept across the country, capturing provincial capitals – and then the presidential palace in Kabul Sunday.
On Wednesday, in his first interview since the fall of Kabul, Biden said that he doesn’t believe the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could have been handled without “chaos ensuing.”
“The idea that somehow, there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens,” the president told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.
President Biden lost the mainstream media when allowed the Taliban to seize control of Afghanistan.
A Defense Department report in March found that despite an agreement with the Taliban, attacks on coalition forces were on the rise in the first quarter of 2021 – 37% higher than a year earlier.
“According to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Taliban very likely prepared for large-scale offensives against provincial centers, complex attacks against the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces’ (ANDSF) installations, and degrading ANDSF capabilities,” the report reads. And dozens of Afghans were killed in targeted attacks. Although the Taliban denied involvement in most of those deaths, U.S. and Afghan officials blamed them for many.
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Pentagon news briefing Wednesday that leaders had not foreseen such a rapid collapse of Afghanistan’s security forces.
“There was nothing, that I or anybody else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days,” he said.
The chaotic withdrawal and rapid Taliban advancement have left thousands of civilians stranded – including Americans and Afghans who are eligible for special immigrant visas.
Bee said one of his former squad leaders was directly connected to an Afghan interpreter cut off from Kabul’s international airport – and freedom, by Taliban checkpoints.
“That dude is no s— dire straits,” Bee said. “And he can’t friggin’ get anywhere.”
And the treatment of interpreters and other Afghans who aided U.S. forces could make locals reluctant to help Americans in future wars, he said.
The withdrawal also left other people in the country with dreams of a free future shattered – especially women who fear a return of the Taliban’s severe restrictions forced on them in the late 1990s.
“We are seeing everything we have built so hard piece-by-piece being lost in Afghanistan,” said one Afghan woman, an NGO leader whose identity is being withheld due to concerns for her safety. “Our 20 years of gains and hard work vanished overnight.”
“The world betrayed Afghanistan, legitimized the savages, and brought them into power,” she added. “I don’t understand. I am still in shock. Afghans, especially women, will face a very new world, a world of fear, destruction, misery and endless pain.”
The U.S. withdrawal and the collapse of the Afghan military also left behind an abundance of American-made weapons for Taliban fighters – some of whom posed with them in photos taken inside the presidential palace Sunday.
Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Person second from left is a former bodyguard for Ghani. (AP Photo/Zabi Karimi)
(AP Photo/Zabi Karimi)
“If you’re gonna leave some place like that, then you leave a parting gift,” Bee said. “Rig the entire building to blow.”
Domestically, he said, Biden “gets upset” by any firearm more powerful than a flintlock pistol – but now the Taliban have access to thousands of weapons that, if properly maintained, can last a lifetime.
“When we did the invasion of Afghanistan, one of the big things we were worried about was Stingers, all the Stingers that we had given to the Mujahideen back in the ‘80s,” he said. “[But] those things have a shelf-life after X amount of years. A .50 cal, you treat that weapon right, it’s going to last forever.”
During Wednesday’s news briefing, Gen. Milley said he would not publicly address the lost weapons until after the completion of the evacuation effort.
Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.
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