It’s not enough to say I’m heartbroken – I’m gutted. These past few days have been difficult to process, and not because the Taliban’s progress was surprising. In fact, the opposite. We sounded the alarm, and our dire warnings fell on deaf ears. Now these insurgents have captured Kabul, seizing the hopes of us all for a more free and prosperous Afghanistan and leaving our partners there to wonder if we have abandoned them.

There will be time to debate our failed military and diplomatic strategy and I am committed to being part of those tough conversations and holding accountable those who seemingly misled the American people. Right now, though, a few things need to be said.

Through all the noise, I want to specifically address our veterans and servicemembers. As a veteran with cousins still serving active duty, I know service goes beyond the uniform – it goes to who you are as a person.

I know there is immense frustration, resentment, and sorrow. I’ve spoken with so many of you who served in Afghanistan – those who were willing to give their lives, those who lost friends – and some of you have expressed doubts over your service. On behalf of our grateful community and nation, let me say as clearly as I can: You changed lives. You protected our homeland from terrorism. You eliminated the looming threat embodied by Osama bin Laden. You improved the circumstances of so many, particularly women and girls.

I also want to address our new generation of women and men in uniform – those who felt called to service growing up in the shadow of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Your service is needed, it is essential. This outcome in Afghanistan is not what any of us wanted, but I will do everything in my power to ensure we learn from our mistakes. You can help with that.

Regardless of whether or not you agree with the Administration’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces, we cannot lose sight of where we do agree: our partners in Afghanistan who stood up to tyranny in hopes of a brighter tomorrow have earned our sustained commitment. We have tools to stem the violence, support displaced people, and safeguard those who supported the U.S. and allies efforts. We must use them. I have urged President Biden to do so and will continue until our Afghan allies are safe. Of personal importance to me, we also owe it to the women and girls there to not lose hope on the promise to protect the gains made over the past 20 years. Without a doubt, this will be our greatest challenge, but one worth our full devotion.

I will continue to use the platform you have entrusted to me to not just fight for our servicemembers and those they strive to protect, but to do everything I can to make sure those who support our efforts are not left behind.