Republicans play blame game with Biden on Afghanistan

(WASHINGTON) — Ahead of addressing the nation on Afghanistan, President Joe Biden is facing sharp criticism from Republicans over the escalating crisis in Afghanistan after Taliban fighters rapidly seized control of the war-torn country.

Though it was former President Donald Trump who brokered a peace agreement with the Taliban in 2020, setting the stage for the current withdrawal, GOP lawmakers are arguing that Biden is to blame because it’s ultimately occurred on his watch. Biden was the president who decided to officially end the war, Republicans have countered.

Trump had long called for U.S. troops to come home and criticized U.S. military interventions for being costly and ineffective, though he’s also taken the chance to strike at Biden over the chaotic evacuations in a series of statements.

Notably, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. was among the few to target both Biden and Trump, calling the situation a “predictable outcome of the Trump-Biden doctrine of weakness.”

“American troops didn’t lose this war — Donald Trump and Joe Biden deliberately decided to lose,” he said in a statement.

Republicans are expected to hammer Biden on Afghanistan in the coming weeks and months as they try to capture both chambers of Congress next year during the midterm elections.

Over the weekend, as Afghanistan government crumbled to Taliban control, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley conducted virtual briefings for all members of the Senate and House on the ongoing situation, according to a Senate official with knowledge of the matter.

“Joe Biden has been commander-in-chief for seven months — the current failure in Afghanistan falls squarely on his shoulders. His lack of leadership during this pivotal moment has been shameful — it has only served to embolden our adversaries and let down our allies,” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted over the weekend.

During a House subcommittee hearing on Monday morning, GOP Rep. Mike Johnson, in his opening remarks, slammed Biden for the situation in Afghanistan, saying it’s an “incomprehensible and utterly avoidable disaster.” He also said the “president is clearly in over his head.”

“What we’re watching right now in Afghanistan is what happens when America withdraws from the world,” Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday.

“This is President Biden’s Saigon moment,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“It’s a very dire situation when you see the United States Embassy being evacuated. In fact you just had President Biden a few days ago saying you wouldn’t see helicopters evacuating the embassy like Saigon, and yet here we are,” Scalise said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also blasted the withdrawal as “botched.”

The exit, “including the frantic evacuation of Americans and vulnerable Afghans from Kabul is a shameful failure of American leadership,” McConnell said in a statement.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Biden is “going to have blood on his hands” over the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“This is going to be a stain on this president and this presidency. … They totally blew this one. They completely underestimated the strength of the Taliban,” said McCaul, the top-ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Democrats have been quieter on Afghanistan — though there has been concerns voiced by senior leaders wanting every effort to be made to rescue vulnerable Afghans who helped with the U.S. mission there.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted Sunday as chaos enveloped Kabul and put her support behind Biden.

“The President is to be commended for the clarity of purpose of his statement on Afghanistan and his action,” she said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, in a somewhat rare move, another House Democrat took to Twitter to join the sea of voices critical of the the president.

“There’s no way to hide it. The situation in Afghanistan is another shame on this admin,” Rep. Vicente Gonzales, D-Texas, tweeted. “Withdrawal was never going to be easy but it didn’t need to come to this.”

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