Afghan War veteran Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas warned the unfolding crisis in Kabul could quickly devolve into a situation far worse than the United States faced during the Iran hostage crisis.
“A lot of people have been speaking this week about comparisons to Saigon in 1975,” the Republican told Fox News on Thursday.
“What increasingly worries me is the scenario of Tehran in 1979, when 52 hostages held by the ayatollah paralyzed American foreign policy for more than a year,” Cotton continued.
“Imagine if the Taliban has effective hostage control of thousands of Americans who are stranded in Afghanistan. It would be a catastrophe.”
In July 1979, Iran’s leader — Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi — fled the nation in the face of an Islamist militant rebellion, and a government backed by radical cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took his place, according to History.com.
After then-President Jimmy Carter allowed the Shah to enter the U.S. to seek medical treatment in November of that year, Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and seized hostages.
Over a year-long standoff followed.
In April 1980, Carter launched a failed rescue attempt in which eight American servicemen died.
Finally, on January 21, 1981, mere hours after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president, the Iranians released the hostages. Their captivity had lasted 444 days.
The situation now in Afghanistan could become far worse for Americans than it was in Iran, Cotton argued.
“My office has been in touch with dozens of people on the ground outside the airport where the Taliban are beating people indiscriminately, taking their passports, taking their visa papers,” the senator said.
“All of this is happening just a few yards away from the gates and American soldiers are not allowed to venture beyond that perimeter to try to secure American citizens who are making their way through these crowds, through Taliban goons,” he added.
“So it may be true that the tarmac is under control, but that doesn’t do any good for the thousands of American citizens who our government just told again cannot be guaranteed safe passage to the airport. That has to change and it has to change today,” Cotton said.
At a news briefing on Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he does not have the forces on the ground necessary to expand beyond the airport. There are approximately 5,200 soldiers on site, the Pentagon said Thursday morning.
“We have to make sure that we can not only secure the airfield, but as the chairman said, defend it as well, because there are a number of threats still in the environment,” Austin said. “We don’t have the capabilities to go out and collect up large numbers of people.”
SEC AUSTIN: “We don’t have the capability to go out and collect large numbers of people.” pic.twitter.com/k4cZESUav2
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) August 18, 2021
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley suggested the U.S. military could engage in certain limited rescue operations, if directed to do so.
“We have capability to do other things if necessary,” he said, but the plan now is to work with the Taliban to allow safe passage.
Cotton blamed Biden for the unfolding chaos in Afghanistan.
“President Biden is confronting the consequences of his catastrophic miscalculation, of his horrific execution of the decision to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan,” Cotton said.