Salud: Biden Right on Afghan Policy, Wrong on Pullout Deadline; Won't Endorse Cathy in Mayor's Race
Updated: Aug 28, 2021
(Update: This interview was conducted the day before the deadly August 26 suicide bombing attack outside Kabul airport, which killed more than 170, including 13 U.S. service members. Carbajal's statement on the attack is below).
In the understatement of the year, Rep. Salud Carbajal on Wednesday said that the Biden Administration "could have done a better execution of the withdrawal" from Afghanistan.
The third-term Democratic member from the 24th Congressional District said in a Newsmakers interview that he strongly agrees with President Biden's overall policy in pulling all remaining troops out of the country, but offered a guarded negative review of how the withdrawal has been handled.
Carbajal's comments, his most extensive to date on the fiasco in Afghanistan, come at a time when there is widespread national and global outrage and anger over the volatile and violent scenes still playing out at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, as tens of thousands of people seek to flee the Taliban which. with startling swiftness, took control of the country as the government and military the U.S. propped up for two decades collapsed within a few weeks..
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Carbajal said he has objected in writing to the Administration's hardline insistence on maintaining a deadline of August 31 as misguided, a position aligned with NATO allies, including Britain and France.
"What should guide our withdrawal date is not an arbitrary date, but the ability to get out all the Americans that need to get out, and all those partners and Afghanis that helped us during our mission in Afghanistan," he said, expressing "grave concern that that deadline could cause a less than orderly, swift and complete evacuation of all Americans and other Afghanis who need to leave."
"There's going to be Monday night quarterbacking on what’s transpired -- should we have done something better or different," Carbajal added. "I think this Administration certainly could have done a better execution of the withdrawal."
The House representative for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, however, rejected the argument that the U.S. should have left a small force in the country to ensure some level of stability. He applauded not only Biden, but also -- surprisingly -- former President Donald Trump for pursuing a correct policy.
"At the end of the day it's about ending a presence in Afghanistan that went beyond the mission that we started 20 years ago to address the threat of Al-Qaeda and to deal with Isis," he said. "Eventually, it became the United States being there supporting a government in their civil war, and costing the lives of many American men and women that were serving there.
"So I agree with, believe it or not, the previous Administration and the current Administration that we needed to get out. I think the issue is could we have done it a little more effectively,." he said.
Carabajal spoke to us from his district office, shortly after returning to Santa Barbara from Washington, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi a few days ago summoned the House back into session during a recess to resolve a high-stakes dispute over the fate of some $4.5 trillion in spending that had been blocked by conflict between moderate and left-wing Democrats.
I just got in at (noon) to the Santa Barbara Airport," he said. "I got up at 4 a.m. in Washington so I could be with you."
In the interview Carbajal also :
Put on a first-rate terpsichorean performance, tap dancing and tip toeing his way through a line of questioning about whether he was allied with the progressives or the moderates in the House's ideological fiscal dispute, with left wing Democrats coupling a vote on a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, already passed in the Senate, to demands for support of a $3.5 trillion budget measure that contains vast new spending to pay for Biden's social welfare, education and climate change agenda: "I would say I was with both of them," he said, in the most Salud comment ever. " I was working with individuals with both sides. I consider myself very pragmatic, I have relationships with many from different perspectives and I was working with everyone."
Ticked off a series of specific benefits for local residents in the new spending packages, ranging from $11 million more for the Highway 101 widening project and electric buses for the city of San Luis Obispo to extension of a new child tax credit, tuition-free community college and expansion of Medicare benefits to include eye, ear and dental care: "There are signficiant investments for the Central Coast -- roads, bridges, waterways, broadband."
Argued that forecasts of Democrats suffering a wipeout loss in next year's midterm elections are off the mark because, he said, a majority of voters will appreciate and reward Democrats for the huge amounts of new federal spending his party has showered on the country through the American Recovery Act -=- with more to come. "I think the American people have seen what Democrats have done now that they're in charge. And when you consider the investments that are yet to come - like universal preschool -- I'm optimistic that will go a long way at the ballot box."
Offered an optimistic view of the chances for passage of landmark "red flag" gun safety legislation he has co-sponsored with Senator Dianne Feinstein, which would give families and law enforcement new authority to obtain legal orders to take guns away from people who are in mental or psychological crisis: "Within this, and next, year of this Congress, there's a real possibility this legislation will be able to move forward."
Stated that he would not take sides in the Santa Barbara mayor's race by endorsing Mayor Cathy Murillo, as he did at a crucial time in the 2017 race; Carbajal said that while he has a "good partnership" with the mayor he also is "family friends" with challenger Deborah Schwartz, the daughter of the late Naomi Schwartz, who was his political mentor when he served as her aide on the Board of Supervisors: "I'm staying out of the race this time around...I know too many people who are running."
(Rep. Carbajal's statement on the suicide bombing attack:
“I fully condemn the outrageous attack outside the Kabul airport this morning. My heart goes out to the loved ones of the service members who were killed in the heinous attack and I join the American people in mourning this tragic loss of life.
“As I have stated before, I believe the decision to end our longest war and withdraw our troops from Afghanistan was the right one. I remain committed to supporting the mission at hand, which is to evacuate the American citizens and Afghan allies in the safest way possible while minimizing risk to service members and civilians.
“Since the end of July, over 100,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan. We still have a mission to complete and that is what should guide our timeline for withdrawal.
“As a veteran, I know how families feel when their loved ones are called to duty. My thoughts remain with the service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice, the injured, and their families. I thank all those in the military, diplomatic, humanitarian, and intelligence communities for their patriotism”).