Republican congressional candidate Bill Olson charged Wednesday that the Biden administration’s big mistake in the Afghanistan pullout occurred last month when it let the American military give up its biggest air power asset — Bagram Airfield.
Olson, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, worked for the Joint Special Operations Command out of Bagram 13 years ago. He said the airfield north of Kabul was the center of American air power superiority and had kept everything in check.
The American military pulled out of Bagram in August. The Afghanistan military abandoned it. Then the Taliban claimed it by mid-August. The rest of the country fell swiftly, leaving America’s exit in chaos this week after 20 years of war and occupation.
“I’m not a brilliant strategist but I do know this: I do know that our strategy is when you are out there you are going to, as much as possible, use that air power. So the Taliban was kept at bay … Once you don’t have that air cover it makes it incredibly difficult to keep or take ground, and be safe about it,” Olson said.
“If you listen to (National Security Adviser) Jake Sullivan and President Joe Biden, they said they had every contingency covered. Well, obviously they didn’t,” Olson said.
Olson, of Davenport, is running again in Florida’s 9th Congressional District, which represents southern Orange County, Osceola County, and eastern Polk County. He seeks a rematch with Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Kissimmee, who beat him 56% to 44% last November.
There are four other Republicans running there, including two Olson defeated in the 2020 Republican Primary, Sergio Ortiz of Kissimmee and Jose Castillo of Davenport. Also running are Republicans George Shepherd of Lake Wales and Kevin Parker of Kissimmee.
Olson expressed outrage that the Biden administration would not answer affirmatively when asked if America would keep troops in Afghanistan until it can evacuate all Americans.
“The answer to that question is, ‘Yes! Yes we will stay as long as it takes to rescue Americans.’ We do not leave Americans behind. But they were given the opportunity to say that and for some reason they’re not saying it,” Olson said.
He called for the resignation of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.
Olson spent 27 years in the Army, retiring as a sergeant first class. In addition to serving in Afghanistan, he also served in Iraq in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield.
He said he is not against the pull-out from Afghanistan, saying that conclusion is almost universal. He said he also does not want Biden to fail in Afghanistan, even though Olson is a Republican. He also said it was almost inevitable that America would get out. But Olson could not contain his outrage at how it’s happening.
In 2007 and 2008 Olson was in Afghanistan, based at Bagram. Bagram is the largest airfield in the country, and can support any kind of aircraft, Olson said. American military flew special operations and drones from the base.
“I was intimate with what it was like to be there. To be honest, I was shocked. That was the linchpin. We were able to create that air support not just for ours but as well as for the Afghanis,” Olson said. “Almost in the dead of night, the rest of the (Afghan) Air Force and Army personnel left, and the Taliban took over in a day or two.”