Moderate Democrats are outraged at the Biden administration for what they see as terrible planning for the evacuation of Americans and their allies. Liberal Democrats who have long sought to end military assignments around the world grumble that the images from Kabul are hurting their cause.
And Republicans who cheered months ago for former President Donald J. Trump’s even quicker timetable to end U.S. military involvement in the country’s longest war have cast aside their previous encouragement to accuse President Biden of humiliation of the country.
If Mr Biden was hoping to find cover with politicians in both parties who had reached a broad consensus on withdrawal, he finds little so far.
Faced with images of panicked Afghans harassing the Kabul airport and inundated with requests from Afghans seeking refuge, some Democrats openly attacked their president’s actions on Monday.
“I’ve been asking the government for a refugee evacuation plan for months,” said Representative Seth Moulton, a Massachusetts Democrat and former captain in the Marine Corps. “I was very explicit: ‘We need a plan. We need someone in charge.” Frankly, we still haven’t really seen the plan.”
“They’ve had weeks. They had an amazing coalition of liberal and conservative lawmakers willing to support the government in this effort,” continued Mr. Moulton, who is a member of the Armed Services Committee. only a national security mistake, but also a political mistake.”
A few liberal Democrats came forward ahead of Biden’s White House speech to the nation to defend the president, in televised appearances that White House officials recirculated on Twitter. Still, few found vocal advocates and administrative assistants distributed talking points to congressional Democrats to bolster the president’s position.
The government said the Afghan government collapse and ensuing chaos were not an indictment of US policy, but evidence that the only way to avert disaster would have been to ramp up the presence of US troops. And in response to critics who say the president was caught flat-footed, the interlocutors said: “The government knew there was a clear possibility that Kabul would fall into the hands of the Taliban. It wasn’t inevitable. It was a possibility.”
Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat of California, who has been one of the strongest voices for more than two decades against the wars waged after the September 11, 2001 attacks, offered, “There is unfortunately no military solution in Afghanistan,” adding: “We’ve been there 20 years, we’ve spent over a trillion dollars and we’ve trained over 300,000 Afghan forces.”
Representative Jake Auchincloss, a Massachusetts Democrat and former naval infantry officer who served in Helmand Province, argued that Mr. Biden’s only viable options were to increase the US military presence in Afghanistan if the withdrawal deadline, agreed by Mr. Trump, came and went – or to “finally tell the truth to the American people.”
“What I’ve heard from voters,” he said in an interview, “is that what we’re seeing in Afghanistan is troubling, but people appreciate the president’s integrity because he emphasizes there’s no end to it. Twenty years was a long time.” time to give Afghan leaders time to plant the seeds of civil society, and instead they only planted the seeds of corruption and incompetence.”
Privately, liberal Democrats were shocked by the ever-expanding catastrophe Afghan refugees were facing. And some worried that the images of chaos in Kabul would serve as a cudgel for aggressive Republicans like minority leader Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell to use against Democrats pushing for permissions to use military force in adopted in 1991, before the Gulf War, in 2001 after the September 11 attacks, and in 2002 before the US invasion of Iraq.
The Democratic left has called for significant cuts in military spending and the Defense Department’s deployment abroad, and for a realignment of the government’s priorities on poverty reduction, education and child welfare programmes. But they now face indelible images of the cost of the US withdrawal.
Texas Republican and former Navy SEAL Representative Daniel Crenshaw wielded that bat when he said on Fox and Friends Monday, “This is what we get because we’ve relied on hollow slogans like ‘Bring the troops home’ and ‘No endless wars more.’”
Mr. McConnell, who had been ruthless during Mr. Trump’s administration in his disregard for the former president’s desire to fulfill his campaign promise and withdraw troops from Afghanistan, hammered Mr. Biden in a statement, saying that the nation’s enemies “suppressed the embarrassment of a superpower.”
“America’s two-decade involvement in Afghanistan has had many authors,” said Mr. McConnell. “So let the strategic missteps be made along the way. But as the monumental collapse that our own experts predicted is unfolding in Kabul today, the responsibility rests entirely on the shoulders of our current commander in chief.”
Few Republicans were willing to hint at the role played by any of Biden’s predecessors — or whether Mr. Trump had supported an even more rapid withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and called ending the war in April “a wonderful and positive thing.” called. To do.”
Representative Andy Biggs, Republican from Arizona and chair of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, accused Mr. Biden Monday of abandoning “Trump’s peace plan and exit strategy and haphazardly creating his own plan.” In February, he had written to Biden pleading with him to remove US troops from Afghanistan “in the coming weeks.”
But in a sign that lawmakers believed the withdrawal from Afghanistan was still supported by many American voters — at least for now — even some famously hawkish Republicans abstained from condemning the decision itself.
“There is a difference between the decision to withdraw and how that decision was implemented,” Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton said on Fox and Friends.
“Whatever you think of the initial decision, Joe Biden’s execution has been recklessly negligent,” he said, adding that “everything” Biden “may have had to wait a few more months” to begin the withdrawal.
The political impact of the chaos and potential bloodshed in Afghanistan is far from clear, both in next year’s congressional midterm elections and in the 2024 presidential election. Mr. Trump felt the political advantage of withdrawal when he signed a peace deal with the Taliban, and even invited Taliban leaders to Camp David for an anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, launched from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. (The idea was quickly scotched.)
Once the images from Kabul disappear from television screens this week, relief that the war was over — at least for US troops — could be the dominant emotional outcome.
Representative Ruben Gallego, Arizona Democrat and former Marine who served in Iraq, said in: a long statement on Twitter that the American public simply “didn’t care about Afghanistan years ago”.
“Our military has not abandoned Afghanistan. The American people have not abandoned Afghanistan,” Mr. Gallego. “Hubris of ours, the elites in Washington, DC, did. We have not understood Afghanistan and we have not understood the will of the American public for a long engagement… again.”
Jonathan Weisman reporting contributed.