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Kansas legislators blame White House for crisis in Afghanistan, work to get veterans help

FILE - An image from the Department of Defense shows how crowded the transport planes are...
FILE - An image from the Department of Defense shows how crowded the transport planes are leaving the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.
Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 4:39 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Legislators from Kansas are blaming President Joe Biden for causing the crisis in Afghanistan with his hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Congressman Jake LaTurner (Kan.-03) said the events unfolding in Afghanistan threaten national security at home and he said the President was the only one to blame. He said not only has President Joe Biden let down the U.S., but he has also let down American allies.

“What the world is witnessing unfold in Afghanistan is a complete and utter failure of the Biden Administration. Thousands of innocent lives, including many women and children, have been put at risk, and our national security is threatened here at home. In the past few days, following the withdrawal of American troops, Kabul has collapsed, and radical extremists are in control of Afghanistan. Many members of the intelligence community on both sides of the aisle have been quick to criticize the execution and the fallout of the withdrawal. The Taliban quickly overthrew the Afghan government and now controls more territory than they did prior to 9/11. The lack of leadership and planning from the highest levels of the Administration during this humanitarian crisis has let down our allies and significantly damaged our presence on the world stage,” said Rep. LaTurner. “God Bless the men and women that bravely served our country in Afghanistan and continue to fight for freedom across the Middle East.”

Congressman Tracey Mann (Kan.-01) called President Biden’s foreign affairs strategy dangerous.

“The world became less safe this week. President Biden’s foreign affairs strategy is negligent, near-sighted, and dangerous,” said Rep. Mann. “President Biden willfully neglected the situation in Afghanistan. As our country’s sole actor in authorizing covert action, President Biden receives regular and invaluable intelligence information that warns of brewing international trouble well before it materializes. With that kind of intelligence resources at his fingertips, President Biden still chose to mislead the American people and ignore the seriousness of Taliban threats, including the threat to overrun the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.”

Mann also said that Biden enacted a near-sighted policy in Afghanistan. He said for over two decades, Afghans enjoyed the freedoms secured with the help of U.S. troops. He said the acceleration of Taliban terrorism has diminished human rights before the world’s eyes and blamed the President for prioritizing the reputation of the Taliban above the developments in the country secured by U.S. soldiers.

Mann agreed that U.S. troops need to be brought home, but only when there is a good-faith understanding of the situation on the ground and a strategically planned execution that includes counter-terrorism and remaining special forces.

“We need a commander-in-chief who knowingly considers every option and leaves no page unturned; who makes strategic, long-term plays for the future of America; and who keeps us safe,” said Rep. Mann. “A failure on any of these fronts risks the long-term security and credibility of both Afghanistan and the United States of America.”

President Joe Biden said he stands behind the decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan. He said he was left with his hands tied after Former President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. Biden made clear that he thought America’s longest war would have come to the same conclusion regardless of when troops were pulled out.

Kansas Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) said that if the administration had followed the conditions of Mike Pompeo’s withdrawal in that agreement, the crisis could have been averted.

Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) said the chaos in Afghanistan was preventable and should be a source of shame for the current administration.

“The chaos we are seeing in Kabul was preventable. The Biden administration’s unorganized and haphazard withdrawal process will make our country and the world less secure. President Biden’s announcement in April to completely withdraw American troops by September 11 without taking appropriate security precautions – including preparing for a return of the Taliban to Kabul – was irresponsible and will damage America’s reputation and interests for years to come. Additionally, the lack of urgency to do right by the thousands of Afghans who worked alongside Americans will be a source of shame for this administration,” said Sen. Moran. “I visited Afghanistan in 2017 to engage with American service members who were supporting anti-terrorism operations. Thank you to each of them and the thousands of men and women who answered the call to serve our country over the last two decades. They served with duty and purpose and deserve our thanks and respect.”

Despite their disagreement with the President, the Kansas legislators are working hard to bring Kansans back from Afghanistan and get veterans help they may need to cope with the events that have happened.

Sen. Marshall said he launched an email address on Tuesday, Aug. 17, for Kansans looking for evacuation assistance in Afghanistan. He said his office is in close contact with the U.S. Department of State and works to help Kansans with evacuation assistance. After the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the takeover by the Taliban, Marshall said his top priority is evacuation.

“The situation in Afghanistan remains chaotic and unstable. Despite conditions on the ground, our top priority should be protecting and evacuating any American that remains in Afghanistan. My staff stands ready to help Kansans with family, friends, and loved ones who are still trying to exit the country. I understand the dangerous and unpredictable conditions occurring in Afghanistan right now and stand ready to provide assistance to Kansans and all Americans seeking to return to the U.S.”

Sen. Marshall said those that have a loved one or colleague who is a U.S. citizen still in Afghanistan to contact at EvacHelp@Marshall.Senate.Gov or (785)829-9000. Staff will be able to provide information and instructions on the process of safely evacuating Americans from Afghanistan.

Sen. Moran said he has shared resources available to veterans and their families to help cope with the events unfolding in the Middle East.

“The veterans who answered the call to protect our nation after September 11 deserve our utmost respect and gratitude,” said Sen. Moran. “These veterans brought justice to Osama bin Laden and served with duty and purpose. They also need to know they are not alone and that we will never forget their sacrifice. I encourage each of us to reach out to our friends and loved ones who have served to check-in and make certain they know they are loved and that their service made a difference.”

According to Sen. Moran, in reaction to current events in Afghanistan, veterans can feel frustrated, sad, helpless, distressed, angry, betrayed, experience an increase in mental health symptoms like PTSD or depression, sleep poorly, drink or use drugs more often, try to avoid reminders and have more military and homecoming memories.

Moran said veterans could question the meaning of their service or whether it was worth their sacrifice. He said they could feel more moral distress about their experiences during their service and feel like they need to expect and prepare for the worst. Feeling distressed to these events is normal, especially ones that feel this is personal. He said it can be helpful for veterans to let themselves feel their feelings instead of avoiding them. Often, he said the feelings will naturally run their course, however, if they continue without easing the resources he provided can be helpful.

In order to help manage veterans’ negative feelings during this time, Moran said he suggests considering ways their service made a difference, focus on the present and engage in meaningful and valuable activities, consider changing the way you approach a thought and consider more general coping strategies such as the following:

  • Engage in positive activities
  • Stay connected
  • Practice good self-care
  • Stick to your routines
  • Limit media exposure
  • Find a PTSD coach online

Moran said if veterans develop their own way of adapting to the transpiring events, they could gain a stronger sense of being able to handle challenges, a greater sense of meaning an purpose and the ability to mentor and support others in similar situations.

Sen. Moran said resources provided by the VA for veterans are as follows:

  • Veterans Crisis Line: If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-8255, then PRESS 1 or click HERE
    • For emergency mental health care, you can also go directly to your local VA medical center 24/7 regardless of your discharge status or enrollment in other VA health care.
  • Vet Centers: Discuss how you feel with other Veterans in these community-based counseling centers. 70% of Vet Center staff are Veterans. Call 1-877-927-8387 or find one near you.
  • VA Mental Health Services Guide: This guide will help you sign up and access mental health services.
  • MakeTheConnection.net: information, resources, and Veteran to Veteran videos for challenging life events and experiences with mental health issues.
  • RallyPoint: Talk to other Veterans online. Discuss: What are your feelings as the Taliban reclaim Afghanistan after 20 years of US involvement?
  • Download VA’s self-help apps: Tools to help deal with common reactions like, stress, sadness, and anxiety. You can also track your symptoms over time.
  • Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS): Request a Peer Mentor
  • VA Women Veterans Call Center: Call or text 1-855-829-6636 (M-F 8AM - 10PM & SAT 8AM - 6:30PM ET)
  • VA Caregiver Support Line: Call 1-855-260-3274 (M-F 8AM - 10PM & SAT 8AM - 5PM ET)
  • Together We Served: Find your battle buddies through unit pages.
  • George W. Bush Institute: Need help or want to talk? Check In or call: 1-630-522-4904 or email: checkin@veteranwellnessalliance.org
  • Elizabeth Dole Foundation Hidden Heroes: Join the Community
  • American Red Cross Military Veteran Caregiver Network: Peer Support and Mentoring
  • Team Red, White & Blue: Hundreds of events weekly. Find a chapter in your area.
  • Student Veterans of America: Find a campus chapter to connect with.
  • Team Rubicon: Find a local support squad.
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