The Republican response to President Joe Biden’s announcement that he would not abandon his predecessor’s plan for withdrawing U.S troops from Afghanistan was mixed and muted. Foreign policy had become so contentious that the party’s own leaders had no single position on the end of the nation’s longest war.
But the fall of the Afghan government and the Taliban’s swift return to power have, at least for now, reunited Republicans in criticism of Biden. On Monday, long-time enemies of a withdrawal claimed that the president should have known the impending disaster. Even supporters of his decision to withdraw troops began to criticize him for making the wrong decisions.
Ted Cruz, R.-Texas, said that it was an embarrassing spectacle, humiliation, and national security catastrophe.
It was a rare moment in time of unity for a party that had been split between an old guard who long supported U.S. military aggression, and former President Donald Trump’s supporters. However, it was not clear how long they would be able to put the division aside.
“If they’re smart enough to say, ‘Look. I wanted us out Afghanistan, but not that way,'” Glen Bolger said about Republicans possibly staying on the political offensive. Bolger is a veteran GOP pollster and has worked on many congressional campaigns. “Not in total surrender and not letting Taliban just waltz into and take over everything. Hurting women and taking time back to the 1400s.
It doesn’t matter that the Taliban entered Kabul, it just means that Republicans tried to make a U-turn in foreign policy. This is the kind of U-turn that will likely confuse any case they can make for blaming Biden and not draw any political backlash.
Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the party has been a sharply different party from its hawkish days. President George W. Bush was the first to invade Afghanistan. He spent many years pushing for nation-building and military intervention in other countries. Trump’s administration reached an agreement late in its term to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. The then-president stated last year that “Now it is time for someone else to do this work.”
Trump stated, “You know it has been 19 years, and even they are tired fighting,” but he also said, “If bad events happen, we’ll return.”
Many Republicans supported the agreement, which also required the Afghan government to release 5,000 prisoners. This endorsement was strong, even though Biden delayed the return of approximately 2,500 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan from Sept. 11 to mark the 20th anniversary terrorist attacks.
Cruz was one of those who supported that decision. In April, he said he was glad that troops were returning home.
“U.S. “U.S. efforts at nation building actually make things worse, not better,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), said this week on his podcast.
Biden returned to the White House from Camp David and tried to refocus the debate on whether the U.S. still belonged in Afghanistan, not how it exited.
He said, “I’m now fourth American president to preside in Afghanistan war.” “I won’t pass this responsibility to a fifth.”
When asked if the Taliban negotiations gave legitimacy to terrorists, Mike Pompeo (Trump’s ex-secretary of state and key architect of the Afghanistan peace accords), replied on Fox News Sunday that “we never trusted Taliban.”
Some of Pompeo’s Republican co-religionists still believe that Trump is to blame for the current events.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Republican from Illinois), who was a member of the Air Force in Afghanistan, criticized “Donald Trump’s terrible deal he negotiated”, but also Biden’s “terrible execution” of a deal that he should not have continued to implement.
“People are so excited or focused on the other side at this time. Kinzinger asked how they could win this political back-and-forth. “I believe Donald Trump is to blame, and Joe Biden will eventually be held responsible.”
Senator Lisa Murkowski (Republican from Alaska) told Anchorage reporters that she didn’t expect U.S. troops to be permanently stationed in Afghanistan forever. She said that she was concerned at the “what we have witnessed play out, and at such an extent and such a high level.”
Murkowski said, “I think there will be a lot more review about how we got to this place at the moment.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), whose father shaped Bush’s foreign policies as his vice president, and who is herself one of Trump’s most fierce GOP critics, tweeted that “calamity in Afghanistan” began with Trump’s administration “negotiating with terrorists and pretending to be partners for peace.”
Cheney stated that the war is over when America surrenders to Biden, who abandons the country’s terrorist enemies.
In a statement released late Monday night, former President Bush urged the Biden administration “legal authority” to reduce red tape for refugees. Bush and Laura Bush, the former first lady, expressed deep sadness at what is happening in Afghanistan.
Bush stated that his heart was heavy for both the Afghan people and the Americans and NATO allies who have given so much.
But Bush, who last month criticized the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan and voiced concerns for the fate of Afghan women and girls, did not directly criticize Biden. Bush said that he believed evacuation efforts would be successful because of the extraordinary men and women in the United States Armed Forces and diplomatic corps as well as the intelligence community.
Others Republicans are more willing to portray what’s happened as a Biden problem. Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the events in Afghanistan “unmitigated tragedy” and stated that it “looks like the Biden administration couldn’t organise a two-car funeral.”
McConnell stated that the mere fact that Trump had announced that he was leaving in May did not mean that President Biden had been required to withdraw U.S. troops.
Online attacks by the National Republican Congressional Committee were launched against Democrats who are looking to win tough House reelection fights next year for their support of Biden’s Afghanistan policy.
Others have gone even further. Senator Rick Scott, R.Fla., chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee compared the Afghanistan developments to what he called President Obama’s failures to address rising inflation and secure the U.S.–Mexico border. He asked in a tweet: “Has the time come to exercise those provisions of the 25th Amendment?” These provisions could lead to Biden being removed from office.
Scott tweeted, “Democrats Control the House, Senate, & @WhiteHouse”, while Scott was on Monday. Scott was not available for comment. “What the hell is Joe Biden doing?”
Kinzinger argued that both parties “failed the American people”.
Kinzinger stated that they were eager to make speeches that would get applause at rallies like “bring all the soldiers home,” but without the necessary reality that leaders must lead and explain to Americans why the troops are important. Instead, we focus on the next election. That is the end result.