GOP lawmakers blast Biden over Afghanistan collapse
Republican lawmakers on Sunday blasted the Biden administration’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan while the Taliban inched closer to taking over Kabul as images of Chinooks evacuating embassy staff from the capital city prompted comparisons to America’s exit from Vietnam.
“This is President Biden’s Saigon moment,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“It’s a very dire situation when you see the United States Embassy being evacuated. In fact you just had President Biden a few days ago saying you wouldn’t see helicopters evacuating the embassy like Saigon, and yet here we are,” Scalise said.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Biden is “gonna have blood on his hands” over the withdrawal of U.S. troops and subsequent swift takeover by the Taliban, who captured provincial capitals in a matter of days, culminating with the near capture of Kabul on Sunday morning.
“They totally blew this one. They completely underestimated the strength of the Taliban,” said McCaul, the top-ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Reports on Sunday indicated that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country, while U.S. citizens in Afghanistan were told to shelter in place amid reports that the airport, where embassy staff had been evacuated to, was under fire. CNN reported that the American flag had been taken down at the embassy.
Other Republican lawmakers spread blame for the quickly deteriorating situation on Biden and the Trump administration, which had negotiated its own plan with the Taliban to have U.S. troops leave the country by May 1.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), said in a statement that “the Trump/Biden calamity unfolding in Afghanistan began with the Trump administration negotiating with terrorists and pretending they were partners for peace, and is ending with American surrender as Biden abandons the country to our terrorist enemies.”
Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse (R) lambasted the “Trump-Biden doctrine of weakness” that he said had been created by the foreign policies of both administrations, which he said “deliberately decided to lose” the conflict in Afghanistan.
The Trump administration last year announced that it had reached an agreement with the Taliban to remove all U.S. forces from Afghanistan on the condition that the insurgent group meet certain commitments, including not allowing terrorist groups such as al Qaeda to operate in areas under its control.
“I really believe the Taliban wants to do something to show we’re not all wasting time,” Trump said at the time. “If bad things happen, we’ll go back with a force like no one’s ever seen.”
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday” that the Trump administration “never trusted to Taliban” despite its efforts to negotiate its own withdrawal.
Biden this week blamed Trump for leaving the Taliban “in the strongest position militarily since 2001.”
“When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor — which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019 — that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on US forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew US forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500,” Biden said in a statement
GOP lawmakers, however, argued Biden was to blame because the withdrawal ultimately occurred on his watch. Scalise, in reference to the U.S.’s international standing, said on Sunday that the Taliban takeover sent a “concerning message to our allies around the world.”
On a call with members of Congress in which they were briefed by the secretaries of State and Defense, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called the withdrawal an “embarrassment,” according to Politico.
“I have passion and I have anger. I want to know where President Ghani is,” McCarthy said during the meeting, accusing the Biden administration of lacking a clear plan when it announced the withdrawal of American troops.
McCarthy, like many Republican lawmakers at the time, appeared mostly unconcerned with Trump’s withdrawal plan last year.
Biden has so far remained firm in his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Members of his administration, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said on Sunday that staying in the country a few more years would not have changed the outcome being seen today.
“The objective that we set — bringing those who attacked us to justice, making sure that they couldn’t attack us again from Afghanistan — we’ve succeeded in that mission, and in fact we succeeded a while ago. And at the same time, remaining in Afghanistan for another one, five, 10 years is not in the national interest,” Blinken said, pushing back against criticism and asserting that “this is not Saigon.”
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