A U.S. military helicopter flies above the U.S. embassy in...

A U.S. military helicopter flies above the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday. Credit: TNS/WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP

Long Island’s congressional delegation responded on Sunday to the rapid collapse of the Afghan government with criticism from Republicans and concerns from Democrats over the unfolding crisis.

As the Taliban swept into Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) blasted President Joe Biden’s strategy of withdrawing all U.S. troops by the end of August.

"The updates coming out of Afghanistan are infuriating," Zeldin, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement Sunday. " … The manner in which President Biden executed this withdrawal has been a historic disaster, embarrassment and failure of leadership."

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) took to Twitter to blame the White House for the Taliban’s takeover.

"It’ll allow radical Islamic terrorists to once again use Afghanistan as a home base to plan 9/11 style attacks," said Garbarino, whose office didn’t respond to a request for comment from Newsday on Sunday. " … As we approach the 20th anniversary of September 11th, we must remain vigilant and do everything we can to stop terrorist attacks at home and abroad."

Biden was briefed on the latest developments in Afghanistan at Camp David on Sunday.

In a statement on Saturday, the president said: "One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country."

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) said the president "inherited a mess" and was left with two options.

"Either you pull out or you surge," he said in an interview with Newsday on Sunday. "And he made a determination that for 20 years we've had both Republican and Democratic presidents decide to surge and that he wasn't doing that anymore."

Meeks, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said most of the American public would not support remaining in Afghanistan and increasing troop levels.

"Do I like what I see with regards to the Taliban moving the way as quickly as they've done? … Do I like to see them in our embassy? No, I don't," Meeks said. "But I can't allow that emotion to stop me from thinking logically [on] what is the alternative?"

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the immediate priority remains to safely evacuate U.S. diplomats and civilians, as well as Afghan allies.

"Job Number One is for us to bring back, first, all American personnel and help them and make sure they get out safe," Schumer said at an unrelated news conference Sunday morning in Manhattan. "But second, all of the brave Afghans who helped our military, they have to be provided an exit to come to America."

Asked whether he was satisfied with how the administration is handling Afghanistan, the Senate majority leader declined to say. Schumer also declined to say whether it was a mistake to be in Afghanistan in the first place.

In a joint statement issued on Sunday night, the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense said the American security presence in Afghanistan will expand to nearly 6,000 troops in the next 48 hours.

"Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident(s) in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals," the statement read.

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) told Newsday on Sunday that the "negative results associated with leaving Afghanistan were inevitable" regardless of when it happened.

"I don’t think anyone predicted that the Afghan military and the Afghan elected officials would’ve given up so easily after decades of training, resources and equipment," Suozzi said. "They just caved. Why did that happen? … Probably because of corruption and exhaustion combined."

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) called what’s unfolding in Afghanistan "heartbreaking and deeply concerning."

"Our armed forces and intelligence community must also ensure we have the capability to respond to acts of terror or any action that puts the evacuation mission at risk," Rice said in a statement.

The office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.

With Matthew Chayes

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