Republicans flip-flop on support for withdrawal from Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – Earlier last year, California Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader, praised former President Donald J. ...


WASHINGTON – Earlier last year, California Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader, praised former President Donald J. Trump’s agreement to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan as “a positive step. As Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo helped negotiate this deal with the Taliban. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri lobbied last November for a pullout as soon as possible.

Now the three are among dozens of prominent Republicans who, with President Biden seeing the pullout, have strongly reversed themselves – attacking Mr. Biden even though he is keeping a promise Mr. Trump made and carrying out a policy they had given their full support.

The collective U-turn reflects the Republicans’ eagerness to attack Mr. Biden and ensure he pays a political price for how he ended the war. Mr Trump having overturned as the pullout became chaotic and, in its final phase, deadly, he also offers new evidence of how allegiance to the former president has come to trump scruples about flip-flops or political hypocrisy.

“You can’t go out there and say, ‘This war was worthless and we have to bring the troops home’ in May, and now hit Biden for doing just that,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger of the ‘Illinois, a Republican who broke up with Mr. Trump after the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill and has long favored the maintenance of a military presence in Afghanistan. “There is no more shame.”

Mr Trump came to power after reversing his party’s long-standing stance on foreign intervention and called for the immediate withdrawal of US troops stationed abroad. In February 2020, he announced a peace treaty with the Taliban, negotiated by Mr. Pompeo, which called for an end to the American presence by May 1, 2021.

After his defeat last November, Republicans clung to Mr. Trump’s American frontline. They urged Mr. Biden to meet the May 1 deadline, and publicly bitched when Mr Biden extended the date for a withdrawal to Aug.31. “This kind of thinking has kept us in Afghanistan for almost 20 years,” Arizona Representative Andy Biggs complained at the time.

But as the last few days of Americans in Afghanistan turned into a frenzied race to get out more than 125,000 people last month – in which 13 servicemen were killed in a bombing outside the United States. Kabul Airport – Republican lawmakers and candidates who had embraced Mr. Trump’s proposal the Taliban deal abruptly changed their minds. They harassed Mr. Biden for negotiating with the Taliban and denounced his avowed eagerness to reduce the US presence in Afghanistan before September 11, calling it a sign of weakness.

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

Once defined by its hawkish spirit, the GOP since Mr. Trump’s election in 2017 has morphed into mainstream interventionist camps like Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who has never really appreciated the foreign policy folded in on it. -even of Mr. Trump, and America’s supporters of Mr. Trump. first approach, which shared his impatience to extricate the nation from intractable conflicts abroad.

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

But hitting Mr. Biden unites them all.

Republican calls Mr. Biden’s resignation, Accused or dismissal under the 25th amendment also recall how much the country’s politics have become much more polarized since the start of the American war in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, when Democrats and Republicans united behind President George W. Bush.

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

As late as April 18, Mr. Trump urged Mr. Biden to speed up the withdrawal schedule: “I have planned to step down on May 1,” he said. “We should stay as close to this timeline as possible. “

Once things seemed to go haywire, the former president began to speak out against the pullout.

On August 24, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Biden of forcing the military “off the battlefield”, leaving “thousands” of Americans as “hostages”. And he suggested that Mr. Biden should have maintained at least a troop presence in Afghanistan.

“We had perfect control of Afghanistan and Kabul with only 2,500 soldiers and he destroyed them when asked to flee!” Mr. Trump said.

Other Republicans have lined up behind Mr Trump in attacking President: Mr McCarthy urged his lawmakers in a letter this week to argue that Mr. Biden was single-handedly responsible for “the worst foreign policy disaster in a generation.”

Their efforts, however, have been complicated by Mr. Trump’s rhetorical turnaround, leaving Republicans struggling to articulate a point of view that does not contradict either his previous support for leaving Afghanistan or his current stance of criticizing the withdrawal.

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

Last week, Mr McCarthy asserted that the United States should not keep troops in Afghanistan, but then suggested that it should have kept Bagram Air Base. When asked if Mr. Trump was wrong to negotiate with the Taliban, Mr. McCarthy instead responded by saying that the chaos of the withdrawal had occurred under Mr. Biden’s watch, not Mr. Trump. .

Pressed again on Tuesday to say whether the United States should maintain a military base in Afghanistan, McCarthy again objected. “The priority right now is, what’s the plan to get people home? ” he said.

To try to distinguish their support for the concept of withdrawal from their criticism from how Mr. Biden handled the actual withdrawal, some Republicans – including Mr. Pompeo, the former Secretary of State – claim that Mr. Trump would have been tougher and would not have tolerated the Taliban advance on Kabul. They suggest he would have stopped the withdrawal and said the Taliban violated the terms of the peace agreement.

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

Republicans have yet to name the specific conditions they believe the Taliban have violated. And those who praised Mr. Trump’s plan but attacked Mr. Biden’s withdrawal have made some substantive suggestions about what the president should have done differently.

“There was a plan in place last year that was handed over to the Biden administration that I supported that would have worked,” Rep. Clay Higgins, a Republican from Louisiana, said at a conference. Tuesday press held by the far-right House Freedom Caucus.

But he didn’t provide any details about the plan he said Mr. Biden ignored.

Some of Mr Biden’s harshest criticisms came from lawmakers who had urged him to speed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan, believing there would never be a good time to leave.

Mr. Hawley, the senator from Missouri, wrote in November that “the time has come to end the war in Afghanistan” and called on Mr. Trump’s acting Secretary of Defense to withdraw the troops “as quickly as possible. possible ”. In April, he publicly lamented Mr Biden’s extension of the opt-out deadline. But after Thursday’s bombing, Mr Hawley called for Mr Biden’s resignation, arguing that the chaotic pullout was not inevitable, but rather the product of Mr Biden’s failing leadership.

“We must reject the lie spread by an inept president that this was the only opt-out option,” said Mr Hawley.

Those with smaller megaphones have also shown flexibility.

Representative Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin was a cheerleader for Mr. Trump’s exit plans. As a leading Republican on the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee, he credited the “Taliban peace treaty” during the months that followed in which no Americans were killed in Afghanistan. Again and again he praised Mr. Trump for initiating the troop withdrawal.

Once chaos erupted in Kabul, however, Mr. Grothman became a vocal and vocal critic of the withdrawal. “that does not surprise me”That the Afghan government quickly fell into the hands of the Taliban, he says WFDL, a local radio station in his neighborhood. He argued that US troops 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 are like? Mr. Grothman told the radio station. “Are they going to kill people? “

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

He said he had no recollection of praising Mr Trump’s deal to withdraw from Afghanistan. Still, he added: “We didn’t know how the deal was going to play out. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Republicans flip-flop on support for withdrawal from Afghanistan
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