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Warner Reflects on Afghanistan Following U.S. Withdrawl

Person speaks into microphones
Sen. Mark Warner answers questions from reporters. (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

VPM reporter Ben Paviour recently spoke with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, after the Taliban seized control of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Below is a transcript of that conversation which has been lightly edited for clarity.

Paviour: There's thousands of Afghanis who assisted the war effort who are stranded in Kabul. What is your office doing to to help them out?

Warner: We have close to 300 inquiries from American citizens, Afghan nationals who are in the Special Immigrant Visa process and others who work for American or other NGO operations. We are working with the State Department to try to get these people cleared and out of country as quick as possible. I'm glad to see that the American military has resecured the airport, and it is our hope that we could start to see upwards of 5,000 to 9,000 people a day coming out of Afghanistan. It still begs, the bigger question is why we weren't better prepared for this catastrophic event where the Afghan military gave up without a fight. As chairman of the Intelligence Committee, we're going to get those answers. But first things first, let's get our people and our friends out safely.

Paviour: Do you think President Biden shares any of the blame there?

Warner: I think it was the right decision to leave Afghanistan. But the implementation of this plan and particularly, as we saw over the last few weeks provincial capitals fall one after another without any fighting, why there was not some ability to bring back any remaining Afghan forces to guard the capital. Or if you were thinking about redeploying American forces, doing it in a way to protect the city. These are all questions that I'm going to get the answer to as chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and there'll be a time to get those answers. But first and foremost, let's get our people and those who work with us out safely.

Paviour: And this might be part of that retrospective. But I mean, you know, we're heading to 20 years after 9/11, we've had thousands of people die in Afghanistan, the Taliban is back in power. I wonder about your thoughts on what we accomplished and what the war was about.

Warner: I think the war was about sorting out the people who had attacked us on 9/11. And then the war wandered; our attention focused on Iraq. We've spent countless dollars, people have given their lives, hearts and souls to try to build civil society. And not just America, remember that we're literally 30 plus other coalition nations, fighting side by side, investing in education of girls and women, trying to get an economy back going. The fact that 20 years later, all of that investment in building some level of civil society crumbled with barely a fight, I think it's going to raise huge policy concerns for many years to come. But let's get our people out first. Let's find out why there was not a break the class plan in place, even if only in the last few weeks. And I expect to get those answers for the American people and all who've sacrificed so much for this war. They deserve those answers as well.

Paviour: That's all the time we have. Senator Warner, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

Warner: Ben, thank you so much.


I cover state politics for VPM with a focus on accountability journalism. I'm a former member of NPR's 2020 elections collaborative and my work appears regularly on NPR shows. I previously covered politics and culture in Cambodia and lived pre-journalism lives as a tech writer at Google and a program manager for a youth job training program in Alameda County, California. My writing has been featured on BBC, The Washington Monthly, the South China Morning Post, and more.