Congressional lawmakers weighed in on the chaotic developments in Afghanistan amid President Biden’s hastily and botched handling over the withdrawal of U.S. troops, with both sides of the aisle expressing anger, but divided in their criticism of the president’s execution that has led to the mayhem.
Biden addressed the nation Monday in his first public remarks since the rapid collapse of the Afghan government amid the Taliban seizing power in Kabul. The president staunchly defended his hasty decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the country while blaming everyone besides himself for the chaos that unfolded over the last few days.
“I stand squarely behind my decision. After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces,” Biden said in remarks from the East Room of the White House Monday afternoon. “That’s why we’re still there. We were clear-eyed about the risks. We planned for every contingency.”
The nearly 20-minute speech – his first on-camera remarks in six days – came after he briefly interrupted his vacation at Camp David following backlash from lawmakers demanding leadership from the president. However, immediately after giving his brief teleprompter remarks, Biden took no questions from reporters and quickly ran back to the presidential retreat to finish the remainder of his vacation.
Republicans have launched a barrage of attacks at Biden focusing on slamming the administration’s flawed execution of the exit strategy, while others criticized the decision they saw as one that didn’t have a contingency plan for an orderly drawdown. Most Republican lawmakers lambasted the president for making America the laughing stock of the world following the Taliban takeover. At the same time, GOP leaders plan to use the blunder against the president as a stain in Biden’s presidency that will have political consequences that will continue to bleed way into the 2022 midterm elections.
Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL), who served multiple tours in Afghanistan as a Green Beret, warned that Biden’s decision to withdraw all of the troops would see the country becoming a “cesspool of terrorism” and the resurrection of “Al Qaeda 3.0.” Waltz added that American credibility following Biden’s handling has been “seriously damaged” due to his withdrawal from Afghanistan that will now impede the nation in its fight against terror.
“Around Afghanistan, not a single country, not one, has agreed to host American forces so that we could stay on top of Al Qaeda,” Waltz said on CNBC’s ‘The News with Shepard Smith.’ “We are blind in the region, no one is going to trust us, and we have no basis for which to get after half the world’s terrorist organizations that exist in that part of the world.”
Waltz’s fellow Floridian colleague, Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), a 12-year Army veteran who lost both legs while deployed in Afghanistan, argued that Biden does not deserve to be called “Commander-in-Chief” for abandoning our “allies and betray[ing] thousands” of U.S. troops.
“History has taught us that if optics is more important to President Biden than defeating our enemies, Americans and our allies will be killed,” Mast wrote in an op-ed on Fox News. “In their moment of need, President Biden abandoned our allies and betrayed the thousands of men and women who sacrificed everything they had in pursuit of peace. The president has not learned the most important commitment of our soldiers: we do not leave men behind. As a result, he does not deserve to have the words “commander” or “chief” anywhere in his title.”
Other veteran lawmakers who served in Afghanistan piled on the criticism. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), a Navy Reserve vet who was deployed to Afghanistan from 2014 to 2015 asked if Biden is capable after “abdicate his responsibilities and leadership” could lead this nation in the next three years.
“We have never seen an American leader abdicate his responsibilities and leadership like Joe Biden has. He’s in hiding. The lights are on at the White House, but nobody’s home. Where is Joe Biden?” Banks said on Fox News. “All of us have to wonder if this man is capable of leading this country over three more years.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), a U.S. Navy veteran who was injured while serving in Afghanistan in 2012, told Fox News that the “real world now just got a lot more dangerous” thanks to Biden’s “incompetence” in “screw[ing] this up beyond belief.”
Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the Biden administration’s “botched exit” from Afghanistan a “shameful failure of American leadership.” House GOP leader, Rep Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) blasted Biden for his week-long silence with remarks that failed to address the “disastrous troop withdrawal” and has done enormous “damage to America’s credibility and our capabilities.”
GOP Senate members of the Armed Forces Committee, including Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), lambasted Biden for his failure to take responsibility by devoting his public remarks to blame everyone for the turmoil in Afghanistan.
“President Biden created a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and he is now deflecting responsibility and not being honest with the nation. He is banking on the hope that the American people won’t care and that the media will move on,” Tillis said in a statement issued shortly after Biden’s delivered remarks. “President Biden instead chose to hide when things got tough, and then deflected all responsibility after he was shamed into finally addressing the nation after a week of silence.”
Another Armed Forces Committee member, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), said Biden’s “disastrous display of incompetence” provoked the chaos that occurred in Afghanistan the last few days.
“President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan has been a disastrous display of incompetence that has provoked a humanitarian crisis. He and his administration failed to adequately prepare, failed to safeguard Americans and those who have helped us, drastically underestimated the speed with which the Taliban would overrun Kabul and other parts of the country, and have generally shown themselves unable to fulfill their commitment to an orderly withdrawal,” Hawley said in a statement issued also following Biden’s televised remarks.
Meanwhile, a few GOP lawmakers have called for a congressional hearing to investigate the events that unfolded on the ground in Afghanistan. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), in demanding accountability, called on top Democrats to “put politics aside” to form a “bipartisan and bicameral” investigation into Biden’s botched handling and response. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chairman also questioned whether Biden’s own cabinet member should invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office over the many debacles he has caused during his seven months in office.
Democrats, meanwhile, remain divided within their own party as the majority of members avoided directing their criticism at Biden or even speaking on the issue. However, those within the Democratic party that have openly attacked the president’s execution plan caused a series of cataclysmic events to unfold are mostly members with a military background.
Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), a Marine who served four tours in Iraq, called the situation in Afghanistan “a disaster” while slamming the Biden administration for failing to act quicker in evacuating U.S. allies. Molton, for weeks, has been raising the alarm and making the case that the Biden administration needed to act quickly to extract US allies from Afghanistan.
On Sunday, the White House stood silent as the crisis began to unfold with the Taliban toppling the Afghan government. Scenes of chaos dominated the news as Americans were glued to their TV, watching events unfolding of troops scrambling to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan allies from Kabul safely. Biden issued a lengthy statement a day before the Afghanistan turmoil, laying the blame largely on his predecessor, former President Trump, claiming that he had inherited a situation where troops had been drawn down to just 2,500.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) thanked Biden for his “clarity of purpose” but focused her worries over the treatment of Afghanistan women following the Taliban takeover. Before Biden’s remarks to the nation, Pelosi circulated White House talking points to House Democrats to get her caucus on the same page on the Afghanistan issue.
“The administration knew that there was a distinct possibility that Kabul would fall to the Taliban. It was not an inevitability. It was a possibility,” the White House talking points read, according to a copy obtained by The Floridian. “POTUS said in July that the Afghan military had the capability to fight the Taliban. But they had to demonstrate the will. Sadly, that will did not materialize.”
The exit from Afghanistan to end America’s longest war was supposed to happen quickly but quietly. However, the chaotic American departure from the embassy in Kabul and Biden’s own words at a July 8 news conference, where he explicitly told reporters there would be no comparison between the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the fall of Saigon.
“There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of an embassy,” Biden said at the July 8 news conference. “It is not at all comparable.”
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL.) expressed her disappointment mostly on the Biden administration’s lack of “planned drawdown” to conduct an “orderly departure.”
“I also worked at the Department of Defense. I know what a planned drawdown looks like. I know what an orderly departure looks like. I’m disappointed that this is the way in which we are withdrawing,” Murphy said in an interview with Politico. “The question is, did the Biden’s administration execute in the best way possible, given the circumstances they were given? I think that question is for the history books.”
Democrat-led committees in both the Senate and House on Tuesday following Scott’s call are planning to hold hearings to find clear answers from the Biden administration regarding the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and the difficulties surrounding the exit and evacuation of U.S personnel “as soon as possible.”
“In implementing this flawed plan, I am disappointed that the Biden administration clearly did not accurately assess the implications of a rapid U.S. withdrawal,” Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement Tuesday, noting that his committee “will continue fulfilling its oversight role with a hearing on U.S. policy towards Afghanistan, including the Trump administration’s flawed negotiations with Taliban, and the Biden administration’s flawed execution of the U.S. withdrawal.”