What Lehigh Valley congressional candidates are saying about Afghanistan

U.S. Rep. Susan Wild, the Democrat representing Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, and two Republicans who want to run against her, have weighed in on the situation in Afghanistan.

Scenes of chaos emerged Monday, as Afghans scrambled to escape the country with the return of national rule by hard-line Islamists. The Taliban retook control of the South Asian nation following a weeklong blitz, unchallenged by the Afghanistan government.

President Joe Biden on Monday called the anguish of trapped Afghan civilians “gut-wrenching” and conceded the Taliban had achieved a much faster takeover of the country than his administration had expected. U.S. forces plan to wrap up their oversight of the evacuation by Aug. 31, the date Biden set for officially ending the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan. But the president expressed no second thoughts about his decision to stick by the U.S. commitment, formulated during the Trump administration, to end America’s longest war, no matter what.

Here are the statements on the developments from Wild and from Lisa Scheller and Kevin Dellicker, the Republicans who announced they are running in 2022 to unseat her in the PA-07 District covering Lehigh, Northampton and southern Monroe counties:

Wild, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stated:

“My heart goes out to the Gold Star families who lost a loved one in Afghanistan over the past twenty years, and to the Afghan civilians who face an uncertain future under Taliban control. We owe it to them to do everything in our power to keep our promises to provide robust assistance, including refugee evacuations and visa support, especially to the thousands of Afghans who provided invaluable help to American forces for two decades. The chaos in Afghanistan is a tragedy, and I have serious concerns about the speed with which the government collapsed and the clear intelligence failures around the fall of Kabul. But let’s be clear – the decades-long war could not continue, and it is long past time to wind down the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan. We cannot democratize the world using military might alone, nor can we pretend that American service-members should be sent into impossible situations with no exit strategy. I expect and look forward to continued updates from the Biden Administration about their strategy to aid Afghanistan in the coming days.”

Scheller, who challenged Wild’s re-election bid in 2020, stated:

“President Biden’s disorganized policy regarding the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan has directly led to the rapid rise of the Taliban’s control in Afghanistan. The complete failure of his leadership is highlighted by the images of Taliban fighters seizing American weapons and supplies that were ‘left’ for the Afghan army. While he promised that no American would need to be airlifted out of Kabul, images of airlifts from the embassy harken back to Saigon.

“The women of Afghanistan now face a dark, horrific future with reports of threats from the Taliban to erase all the progress that has been made for the past 20 years. I am outraged and so should anyone who claims to be a proponent of women’s rights, but it should be no surprise that the Taliban were able to mobilize and seize power this rapidly. The American public deserves answers as to how this staggering defeat was possible. Where are our elected leaders?

“I urge all who know a veteran or a Gold Star family from the war in Afghanistan to reach out and and offer support during this enormously difficult time.”

Dellicker, who served two overseas tours with the Pennsylvania Air National Guard in support of anti-terrorism efforts, stated:

“The scenes from Afghanistan are disturbing and frightening. Right now, our brave men and women in uniform are actively engaged in dangerous military operations. They need our full support.”

He also addressed his fellow Afghanistan veterans:

“Do not be disheartened by what you are witnessing. You answered the call, completed your missions, and served with honor. You destroyed terrorist safe havens, vanquished al-Qaida, and brought justice to Osama bin Laden. For two decades, you protected your nation from terrorist attacks and made the world safer. This is no time to hang your head.

“The circumstances in Afghanistan are complex, evolving, and challenging. In due time, we will fully understand the gravity of situation and what to do next. Where appropriate, we must hold our leaders accountable and make them worthy of your service and sacrifice.

“Meanwhile, our brothers and sisters remain in harm’s way. They are safeguarding American property, protecting United States citizens, and evacuating our allies. We must ensure that the brave Afghanistan translators and their families have safe passage out of the country. Please keep our leaders, our troops, their families, and the people of Afghanistan in your thoughts and prayers.”