As our nation mourns the historic losses of Sept. 11, 2001, I can’t help but remember our troops who bravely entered enemy territory in Afghanistan in the weeks after the twin towers fell. As of April, 2,448 of them have sacrificed their lives to keep our nation safe, along with 3,846 American contractors, 444 aid workers, and 72 journalists. With one erratic decision, President Biden unraveled 20 years of gains by our brave service members and demonstrated the full weight of his weak leadership.

Last week, crowds flooded onto airport runways in Kabul and desperate parents passed their children over barbed wire to U.S. troops. It’s important to understand that these scenes of horror and grief weren’t inevitable. Contrary to President Trump’s conditions-based withdrawal agreement for Afghanistan, Biden’s timeline-based decision was disorganized. His top military commanders — Gen. Frank McKenzie, Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, and Gen. Mark Milley — all favored a diplomatic agreement over an immediate exit. Biden rejected their counsel, and all hell broke loose.

The consequences of Biden’s rash decision left our European allies speechless. Germany, whose troops deployed to the region following the September 11 terrorist attacks, expressed particular shock. Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign relations committee, explained that the decision caused “fundamental damage to the political and moral credibility of the West.” Germany isn’t alone. Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chair of the U.K. parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said in the wake of the exit, “Afghanistan is the biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez.” The European community at large strongly opposed Biden’s decision, characterized by one outlet as a “mistake of historic magnitude.”

From a geopolitical perspective, Biden’s decision opened up the region to exploitation by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). CCP-backed tabloids were quick to label the disastrous exit from Afghanistan “U.S. humiliation.” For China, U.S. failure in Afghanistan is more than an opportunity to freshen their propaganda. The Chinese government is poised to back the Taliban terrorists as a legitimate government and rain down economic support through Belt and Road Initiative deals. Our departure practically handed Beijing unfettered access to Iran via historic Silk Road routes through Afghanistan. Once again, Biden’s weak leadership put China’s interests above our own.

Though Biden and his administration will undoubtedly do everything in their power to make this latest crisis disappear, Tennesseans are aghast at what is unfolding in Afghanistan. Active service members, the veteran community, and Gold Star Families in the Volunteer State are calling out Biden’s failure for what it is — a betrayal. Members of our armed forces have sacrificed everything to protect our nation from terrorists abroad; Joe Biden’s weak leadership has demonstrated just how little he values that sacrifice.

Less than a month away from September 11, our nation continues to mourn the thousands of lives lost when the Twin Towers fell and the service members who died defending our nation overseas. While Biden’s weak decision-making failed the American and Afghan people, we cannot waiver in our wholehearted support of our active duty military and veteran community. Tennesseans stand with our brave men and women in uniform, and it’s time the White House does the same.

Marsha Blackburn is the senior senator from Tennessee.

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