Republicans fickle over support for withdrawal in Afghanistan


WASHINGTON — Early last year, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, hailed former President Donald J. Trump’s deal to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan as “positive step. As Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo helped negotiate this agreement with the Taliban. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri pressed last November to withdraw as quickly as possible.

Now, the three are among dozens of notable Republicans who, with President Biden’s vision of withdrawal, have sharply reversed their position – attacking Mr. Biden even as he makes good on his promise to Mr. Trump, and implements a policy for which they have given their full support.

This collective shift reflects Republicans’ eagerness to attack Mr. Biden and ensure he pays a political price for the way he ended the war. With Mr. Trump backing down as the withdrawal grows chaotic, and at the end of the game, he also offers new evidence of how loyalty to the former president has transcended hypocrisy about political volatility or political hypocrisy.

You can’t go out and say, ‘This war was worthless and we have to bring the troops home,’ said Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, and now we’re hitting Biden because he did exactly that. Trump broke up after rioting at the Capitol on January 6 He has always preferred to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan. “There is no shame anymore.”

Mr Trump took office after he reversed his party’s longstanding position on foreign interventions and called for the immediate removal of US forces stationed abroad. In February 2020, he announced a peace agreement with the Taliban, negotiated by Mr. Pompeo, that called for an end to the US presence by May 1, 2021.

After his defeat last November, Republicans clung to Trump’s first line toward America. They urged Biden to stick to the May 1 deadline, and publicly grumble When Mr. Biden extended the withdrawal date to August 31. “That kind of thinking has kept us in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years,” Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs complained at the time.

But as Americans’ final days in Afghanistan last month turned into a frantic race to get more than 125,000 people out — during which 13 soldiers were killed in a bomb attack outside Kabul airport — Republican lawmakers and candidates embraced Mr. Trump’s decision. The deal with the Taliban surprisingly changed their tune. They attacked Biden for negotiating with the Taliban and denounced his declared eagerness to end the US presence in Afghanistan before 9/11, describing this as a sign of weakness.

“I will not allow the Taliban to dictate when Americans will leave,” McCarthy said at a news conference on Friday. “But this president did it, and I don’t think any other president, Republican or Democrat, is outside of Joe Biden.”

Once identified by its hawks, the Republican Party since Mr Trump’s election in 2016 has been torn into traditional interventionist camps such as Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who has never prepared for Mr. Trump’s inward-looking foreign policy, and America’s backers Mr. Trump-I, who shared it His impatience in ridding the nation of intractable conflicts abroad.

Last year, Mr. McConnell, then the majority leader, took to the Senate floor to denounce Mr. Trump’s planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, warning that an early exit would be “a reminder of the humiliating American departure from Saigon”.

But the Biden strike unites them all.

Republican calls for Mr. Biden resignationAnd isolation or removal from the position below Twenty-fifth Amendment Also a reminder of how polarized the country’s politics have become since the start of the US war in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when Democrats and Republicans alike united behind President George W. Bush.

No Republican has turned against the Afghanistan withdrawal faster than Trump himself, who has spent the past two weeks after years of espousing a return to isolationism attacking Biden for the very withdrawal he demanded and then negotiated.

Late on April 18, Mr. Trump urged Mr. Biden to speed up the timetable for withdrawal: “I was planning to pull out on May 1,” he said. “We must maintain as close to that schedule as possible.”

But as soon as things started to go well, the former president began speaking out against the withdrawal.

On August 24, Mr. Trump accused Biden of forcing the military to “flee the battlefield,” leaving “thousands” of Americans “hostage.” He suggested that Mr. Biden should have kept at least some troop presence in Afghanistan.

“We had Afghanistan and Kabul in complete control with only 2,500 soldiers and destroyed them when they were told to flee!” Mr. Trump said.

Other Republicans fell behind Mr. Trump in attacking the president: Mr. McCarthy urged his deputies In this week’s message To prove that Biden was single-handedly responsible for “the worst foreign policy disaster in a generation.”

However, their efforts have been complicated by Mr. Trump’s rhetorical reversal, which has left Republicans struggling to express a view that does not conflict with his past support for leaving Afghanistan or his current stance on criticism of withdrawal.

The findings made it difficult to discern exactly what Mr. Trump and his followers now believe.

Last week, Mr. McCarthy emphasized that the United States should not keep any troops in Afghanistan, but then suggested that it should have kept Bagram Air Force Base. When asked if Mr. Trump had made a mistake negotiating with the Taliban, Mr. McCarthy responded instead by saying that the chaos of the withdrawal occurred under Biden, not Mr. Trump.

McCarthy again objected, after being pressed again on Tuesday to say whether the United States should maintain a military base in Afghanistan. “The priority now, what is the plan to get people back home?” He said.

To try to discern their support for the concept of withdrawal from their criticism of Mr. Biden’s handling of actual withdrawal, some Republicans – Including Mr. Pompeo, the former Secretary of State They claimed that Mr. Trump would have been tougher and would not have tolerated the Taliban’s advance in Kabul. They suggest that he would have halted the withdrawal and declared that the Taliban had violated the terms of the peace agreement.

But the terms negotiated by the Trump administration have been largely vague, and nothing in the agreement requires the Taliban to halt their military campaign, refrain from capturing Kabul or agree to a power-sharing deal with the Afghan government.

Republicans have yet to specify the specific terms they believe the Taliban have violated. And those who praised Trump’s plan but attacked Biden’s withdrawal have volunteered some substantive suggestions for what the president should have done differently.

“There was a plan in place last year that was delivered to the Biden administration that I supported and I was going to work,” Representative Clay Higgins, a Republican from Louisiana, said at a news conference Tuesday for the Freedom Caucus in the hard-right House of Representatives.

But he did not provide any details about the scheme, which he said Mr. Biden had ignored.

Some harsh criticism of Biden came from lawmakers who urged him to speed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan, arguing that there would not be a good time to leave.

Hawley, the Missouri senator, wrote in November that “it is time to end the war in Afghanistan” and asked Mr. Trump’s acting secretary of defense to withdraw troops “as quickly as possible.” In April, he publicly regretted Mr Biden’s extension of the withdrawal deadline. But after Thursday’s bombing, Mr. Hawley called for Biden’s resignation, arguing that a chaotic withdrawal was not inevitable, but the product of Biden’s failed leadership.

“We must reject the falsehood of a weak president that this is the only option to withdraw,” Hawley said.

Those with smaller speakers showed flexibility as well.

Representative Glenn Grottman of Wisconsin has been one fan of Mr Trump’s withdrawal plans. As a prominent Republican member of the House Oversight Committee’s National Security Subcommittee, He credited the “Taliban peace treaty” For the months that followed, no Americans were killed in Afghanistan. Time and time again, he praised Mr. Trump for pulling troops out.

But once chaos broke out in Kabul, Mr. Grottmann became a vocal critic of the withdrawal. “It doesn’t surprise meThat the Afghan government quickly fell into the hands of the Taliban, he said WFDL . said, a local radio station in his area. He said US forces should have stayed.

“I don’t see how you can leave, because what will happen if you don’t get people out, given what the Taliban look like?” Mr. Grotmann told the radio station. “Are they going to kill people?”

In an interview, Mr. Grotman argued that Mr. Trump appeared strong in negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban, while Biden’s failure to prevent violence last week made him appear weak.

He said he had no recollection of praising Trump’s deal to withdraw from Afghanistan. However, he added, “We didn’t know how the deal would turn out.”

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