Mitch McConnell Calls for Airstrikes Against Taliban to Stop 'Overrunning' of Kabul

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has called on the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden to conduct airstrikes against Taliban forces in Afghanistan. The airstrikes are necessary, McConnell said, to prevent the Islamic militant group from "overrunning" Kabul, the nation's capital.

McConnell issued his comments on Friday after speaking with Adela Raz, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. As U.S. troops have begun withdrawing under Biden's command, the Taliban has quickly retaken most of the country.

"This debacle was not only foreseeable, it was foreseen," McConnell said. "The President and his team actively decided against a far more responsible approach to preserving our national security interests and protecting our Afghan partners."

"With that said, it is not too late to prevent the Taliban from overrunning Kabul," McConnell continued. "The Administration should move quickly to hammer Taliban advances with airstrikes, provide critical support to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces defending the capital, and prevent the seemingly imminent fall of the city."

"If they fail to do so," McConnell's statement concluded, "the security threat to the United States will assuredly grow and the humanitarian cost to innocent Afghans will be catastrophic."

McConnell Biden Afghanistan airstrikes Taliban Kabul terrorism
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has called on the Biden Administration to conduct airstrikes against Taliban forces to prevent the terrorist group from "overrunning" Kabul, Afghanistan's capital. In this photo, taken on August 13, 2021, a Taliban fighter holds a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) along the roadside in Herat, Afghanistan's third biggest city, after government forces pulled out the day before following weeks of being under siege. AFP/Getty

The U.S. used airstrikes around July 22 to aid anti-Taliban Afghan forces. A variety of combat aircraft—including bombers and warplanes on an aircraft carrier—carried out the strike. However, by that time, Taliban forces had already overrun roughly half of the country's 421 districts, the Pentagon said.

Biden initially set a September 11 deadline for withdrawing troops from the region. The date marked the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks which ushered U.S. troops into the country.

"The Afghan government, leadership has to come together," Biden said. "They have the capacity. They have the forces. They have the equipment. The question is will they do it?" However, the White House also said there would be no "declaration of victory" upon the U.S. departure.

"We're not going to have a 'mission accomplished' moment," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on July 8. "We feel it's in our national security interest to bring our men and women serving home, and ... for Afghan forces to be in the lead."

Even before U.S. troops began their withdraw, Taliban forces began recapturing ground they had lost during the 20-year U.S. occupation. Between May and June, 50 of Afghanistan's 421 districts had fallen to Taliban militants, Deborah Lyons, the United Nations' special envoy on Afghanistan, said. By early July, Taliban insurgents laid claim to over a third of the country's districts.

Numerous people have since criticized Biden for the troop removal.

Ata Mohammad Noor, an influential Afghan warlord and key U.S. ally during the occupation, called the U.S. withdrawal "irresponsible." He said the country's military is badly weakened due to the United States' speedy exit. The remaining Afghani military is logistically unprepared to fight off the rush of insurgents, he added, lacking morale, down-time, food, pay and reinforcements for their efforts.

"We needed factories to produce our own ammunition and workshops to repair the aircraft and other vehicles that were given to the Afghan forces," said Noor. "But the international forces did not work to build a foundation, a self-sufficiency in Afghanistan."

He has since warned of a possible civil war. He has been promoting local militias as one possible way to fight off the Taliban threat.

On July 9, the Pentagon said a Taliban takeover of the country was "not inevitable", and pledged financial support to help Afghan troops fight back. Together, the U.S. and NATO committed to spending $4 billion annually on Afghan forces until 2024.

Despite the pledge, Illinois Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger lamented the withdrawal. He said the U.S. needed to stay longer.

"The Taliban have outlasted the will of the United States... and we may have to go back now," he added.

Tennessee Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn called the withdrawal "arbitrary" on Twitter. She also said the decision "abandons the 20 years of sacrifice and dedication our brave men and women have expended to defeat the Taliban."

By July 19, the U.S. and 13 other allied nations released a statement calling on the Taliban to immediately end all violence and show commitment to the peace process. However, the very next day, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the Taliban had "no intention or willingness" for peace as a rocket attack hit near the presidential palace.

On August 8, British General Sir Richard Barrons said that the U.S. departure could create "a very poor strategic outcome" in the region. "We will run the risk of terrorist entities re-establishing in Afghanistan, to bring harm in Europe and elsewhere," Barrons told the BBC.

By August 11, the Pentagon said that the situation in the country was "deteriorating" as the Taliban had taken control of major roads and border crossings in the nation. The next day, the non-government organization Crisis Group estimated that Taliban forces had claimed 65 percent of the country.

While the president initially intended on leaving around 650 service members to help protect the U.S. embassy there, he has since decided to evacuate the embassy entirely.

Experts in Crisis Group said that if the Taliban overthrows Kabul and the presidential government, then it will immediately seize all power. After that, the fundamentalist Islamic group will begin rolling back any civil rights advancements made by women and girls. Any people seen as having helped U.S. forces will be executed, the group added.

To this end, Biden pledged to provide Special Immigration Visas for relocating thousands of Afghan interpreters and translators who assisted U.S. forces. They have since been relocated out of the country in an undisclosed location. Any translators left in the country will likely be "hunted down and executed like dogs" by Taliban forces, one former Army captain said.

By August 12, the U.S. military said it believed that Afghanistan could be under the Taliban's complete control within two months. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the Department of Defense was "deeply concerned" by the speed with which the Taliban has retaken most of the country.

The Washington Post reported this week that the Biden administration is preparing for Kabul to fall within 90 days of the U.S. withdrawal on August 31.

Newsweek contacted the White House for comment.