Illinois Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin were in Peoria with Governor J.B. Pritzker on Thursday to celebrate the heroism of the C-130 Aircraft Fleet of the Illinois National Guard.
Duckworth was questioned about her opinions of the Afghanistan withdrawal. Duckworth says her attention in the situation is to getting Americans, allies, and one of her constituents out of the country: “Right now, my focus is on getting all Americans out of Afghanistan and getting the thousands of brave Afghani men and women who worked with the United States out of the country. We can talk later on about the draw down and all of that, but right now, our focus needs to be on making sure we leave no American behind, and especially for me, the priority is Mark Frerichs who is from Illinois, who has been held by the Taliban for well over a year. We need to get him home.” Frerichs, a Navy veteran from Lombard, was kidnapped near Kabul in February 2020 while working as a civil engineer. The State Department last year offered a reward of up to $5 million for information in his case. The New York Times reported in November that Frerichs was still in custody with the Taliban while the Trump Administration was negotiating a deal with them.
Duckworth says that the debate over the choices of the U.S. To remain in the country for the last two decades can be made later. She says that the country let troops down by not updating the mission for them in Afghanistan: “We are letting our troops down when we send them into harm’s way based on a debate that happened 20 years ago and has not yet been updated. Where we need to be right now, today, is focused on getting Americans out of Afghanistan, getting our interpreters and those who worked with us and to whom we made a promise out of Afghanistan. I will tell you if we do not do that, no one will ever work with the U.S. ever again.”
Duckworth has already signed on to a letter asking the Biden Administration to expedite the refugee and immigration process out of the country. The Taliban pledged Tuesday that they will be offering an amnesty period while the U.S. continues to evacuate allies and citizens out of the country. It’s a promise that Duckworth and several others view with heavy suspicion. 2,448 U.S. Troops have been killed in the ongoing war, with over 20,000 severely wounded during their service overseas.
The U.S. has pressed the Taliban on Frerichs’ safe return, saying his case will weigh on the legitimacy of any future Taliban-led government in Afghanistan. Duckworth and Durbin sent a letter to the Biden Administration on Tuesday asking that Frerichs’ release be included in any further negotiations with Taliban leaders.