GOP lawmakers step up criticism of Biden on Afghanistan

GOP lawmakers ramped up criticism of President BidenJoe BidenGOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips Five House members meet with Taiwanese president despite Chinese objections Sunday shows preview: New COVID-19 variant emerges; supply chain issues and inflation persist MORE's withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan on Friday as the country's collapse appeared to accelerate, with the Taliban taking over several additional cities.

The possibility that Kabul, the country's capital, could fall in the next several weeks has grown stronger with the Taliban's gains, suggesting the fall of the government could happen much more quickly than previously anticipated.

The fast-moving and surprising speed of the developments in Afghanistan have given arguments to Republicans who say Biden's strategy has led to the collapse of the country, where U.S. forces have been engaged for nearly 20 years in America's longest war.

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In an op-ed published on Fox News on Friday, Rep. Michael WaltzMichael WaltzGOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization How lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation Defense & National Security — The mental scars of Afghanistan MORE (R-Fla.), said the situation in Afghanistan was “heartbreaking and infuriating.”

“The Taliban are barreling towards seizing control of the country and could very well take Kabul before the 20th anniversary of September 11th. In their wake, Al Qaeda is poised to come roaring back and attack America, once again,” Waltz wrote.

Critics have drawn parallels to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq under former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHow a biased filibuster hurts Democrats more than Republicans Stephen Sondheim, legendary Broadway songwriter, dies at 91 With extreme gerrymanders locking in, Biden needs to make democracy preservation job one MORE, which led to the rise of the Islamic State. That brought U.S. troops back to the country.

“It’s unclear whether Biden is clueless or heartless or both. But he is living up to his reputation of being ‘wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,’ as described by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates,” Waltz wrote.

Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks China draws scrutiny over case of tennis star Peng Shuai Biden says he's 'considering' a diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics MORE (R-Ark.), a potential presidential candidate in 2024, attacked Biden on Friday over Afghanistan and critical race theory, a favorite issue of conservatives. 

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“It’s clear President Biden and his Department of Defense have been more concerned with critical race theory and other woke policies than planning an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Cotton tweeted.

Waltz and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRepublicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE (R-Ky.) have already called on Biden to commit more air support for Afghanistan forces. Both have voiced concerns that Kabul will become the next major target.

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“Here’s what should happen now. President Biden should immediately commit to providing more support to Afghan forces, starting with close air support beyond August 31st. Without it, al Qaeda and the Taliban may celebrate the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks by burning down our Embassy in Kabul,” McConnell said in a statement on Thursday.

McConnell said that the country was “careening toward a massive, predictable, and preventable disaster.”

“And the Administration’s surreal efforts to defend President Biden’s reckless policy are frankly humiliating,” he continued.

The statements come as the Taliban continues to make a dizzying number of inroads in the country, most recently picking up two major cities — Kandahar and Herat — as the U.S. continues to withdraw its troops. Overall, at least 12 provincial capitals of the country’s 34 have been captured.

Earlier in July, Biden defended his decision to withdraw troops from the country and rejected the notion that a Taliban takeover of the country was “inevitable.”

“The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese Army. They're not remotely comparable in terms of capability,” Biden said during a speech in the White House East Room. “There's going to be no circumstances where you’re going to see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy in the United States from Afghanistan.”

“Let me ask those who want us to stay: How many more? How many thousands more Americans’ daughters and sons are you willing to risk? How long would you have them stay?” he said.

However, the situation has drastically escalated since then and the Pentagon said on Thursday that it would deploy roughly 3,000 U.S. troops to the country within the next 24 to 48 hours on a temporary basis to help draw down its embassy staff.

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.