Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) criticized the deadly and chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and suggested America may not be done in the country as she spoke during a 9/11 anniversary panel in Rochester, Michigan.
Slotkin, who worked for both the CIA and Department of Defense before joining Congress, admitted the U.S. did not exit Afghanistan “cleanly” and that some of “our objectives” were not met in the 20-year war during the panel, which was held at Oakland University.
She spoke alongside former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), who represented Slotkin’s district from 2001 to 2015 and served as chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
Slotkin said, “First off, let me say, I don’t know anyone who feels good about how the withdrawal went. I don’t know how anyone could look at those pictures and feel good.” She continued:
Some of the hardest conversations that I’ve had to have over the past three, four weeks have been with veterans who served in Afghanistan, and it is— there’s a despondency and a feeling like, you know, I sacrificed my friends and my life and my health and my family and for what, and those are difficult conversations that we’re going to be grappling with for a long time.
Slotkin expressed similar lamentations about U.S. military morale at the end of August as she explained what she perceived to be the purpose of the past 20 years, assessing the military presence in Afghanistan had bought the U.S. time to build its defenses and that it had also introduced a semblance of democracy to the Afghans.
The U.S. initially entered Afghanistan in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, but its drawn out presence in the country has been criticized by many as an unsuccessful exercise in “nation building” given the Taliban ultimately took back control of the country after two decades.
The Taliban’s advancements in Afghanistan had come rapidly in mid-August, prompting the Biden administration to undertake a hasty evacuation effort. President Joe Biden set a hard end date of August 31 to leave the country, but the exit did not come without a deadly terrorist attack and the ultimate abandonment of many American citizens and foreign allies who were still left in Afghanistan.
On August 26, Slotkin wrote in a statement online that she had had an opportunity to have a “frank” conversation with Biden about Afghanistan, saying she conveyed “concerns” to Biden that she had about his August 31 withdrawal date and that “she did not always agree” with the president during their conversation:
I raised my concerns with the August 31st deadline, the importance of ensuring that both Americans and Afghans who worked on our behalf be able to get through Taliban checkpoints up until the 31st, and my concerns about what happens in the days and months after we depart.
— Rep. Elissa Slotkin (@RepSlotkin) August 26, 2021
Slotkin during her remarks at the panel also suggested the U.S. would eventually return to Afghanistan but said she hoped the return would not become “another long-term ground war.”
“I think we should count on military action being taken in Afghanistan in the next year, two years, three years, I mean, for sure,” she said. “I mean as we were pulling out, we conducted a drone strike, right? So I think that this idea that we’re done with Afghanistan is not realistic.”
Slotkin is one of just a few Democrats who represent a district Trump won in 2020. The Michigan lawmaker, whose district Cook Political Report rates as four points favorable to Republicans, will be walking a fine line as she heads into the 2022 midterms between appealing to her red-leaning constituency and staying united with the Democrat caucus.
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