Politicians who served in Afghanistan react to Taliban takeover

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are reacting to the latest from Afghanistan.

We spoke with several Colorado leaders in office and even some who are vying for office. They all had one thing in common: they each served our nation’s military, spending time on the ground in Afghanistan.

No matter where these three politicians stand on policy, they all agreed what is going on in Afghanistan is a nightmare. Even some supporters of President Joe Biden supporters placed the blame on him.

‘Heartbreaking,’ ‘devastation,’

“We do ourselves no favors as Americans if we are not reflective, if we are not honest and if we are not self-critical,” said state Rep. David Ortiz, D-Arapahoe. “Do I blame this administration for the botched pull out? Absolutely I do. They are responsible for this.”

Ortiz served as a U.S. Army aviator. He deployed to Afghanistan for a year when he survived a catastrophic helicopter accident in 2012, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. The images coming out of Afghanistan invoke a strong reaction from the lawmaker.

A U.S. C-17 packed with 640 Afghans trying to escape the Taliban on Aug. 15, 2021. (Credit: Defense One)

“I really was disappointed. I feel like the pullout was a result of trying to fulfill a campaign promise rather than what was the best thing for our national security and for the sacrifices of the people who serve there and the Afghani civilians, so it was extremely disappointing and heartbreaking, Ortiz said.

Political newcomer and Bronze Star recipient Erik Aadland did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Republican from the Denver area, he is challenging U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet for his seat this upcoming election season. He said the president should have better coordinated the removal.

When asked about his reaction to seeing images from Kabul, Aadland said he felt “devastation, anger, hurt, sadness at how all this all ended up.”

“It’s a dereliction of duty,” Aadland said. “It stops with the president of the United States, the commander in chief, who is responsible for all our military forces on the planet and making sure we are doing it the right way. We’re putting innocent lives in harm’s way. The way we left is a crime.”

While U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, D-Aurora, acknowledged there were miscues in the pullout, he said the nation’s attention needs to be focused elsewhere right now.

“There is going to be time to have the debate about the missteps and mistakes of the last 20 years, and there were many. We will figure out as a nation, as members of Congress, as a community, about what went wrong and how to do it,” Crow said at a press conference Monday.

“Certainly, the mistakes of the last couple of weeks and couple of days as this very tragic scene unfolds at Kabul (Hamid Karzai) International Airport and around the country. We are here today with a very simple message: Keep Kabul airport open,” Crow said.

That message was reiterated by all the veterans we spoke to. They said at this point, the main goal is getting as many allies to safety as possible. All three veterans also made it clear that despite the pullout, the service of every veteran over the past two decades was valuable and appreciated.

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