Republicans Flip-Flop on Support for Afghanistan Withdrawal

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Eager to denounce President Biden, immoderate Republicans person flip-flopped connected bringing U.S. troops location — making it hard to discern what they really believe.

Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House number  leader, asserted past  week that the United States should not support  immoderate  troops successful  Afghanistan but past    suggested that it should person  held onto Bagram Air Base. 
Credit...Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

Reid J. EpsteinCatie Edmondson

Sept. 1, 2021, 1:43 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — Early past year, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House number leader, praised erstwhile President Donald J. Trump’s woody to propulsion American troops retired of Afghanistan arsenic “a affirmative step.” As caput of state, Mike Pompeo helped negociate that statement with the Taliban. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri pressed past November for a withdrawal arsenic soon arsenic possible.

Now, the 3 are among dozens of salient Republicans who, with President Biden seeing the pullout through, person sharply reversed themselves — assailing Mr. Biden adjacent arsenic helium keeps a committedness that Mr. Trump had made, and carries retired a argumentation to which they had fixed their full-throated support.

The corporate U-turn reflects Republicans’ eagerness to onslaught Mr. Biden and guarantee that helium pays a governmental terms for the mode helium ended the war. With Mr. Trump reversing himself arsenic the withdrawal grew chaotic and, successful its endgame, deadly, it besides offers caller grounds of however allegiance to the erstwhile president has travel to override compunctions astir argumentation flip-flops oregon governmental hypocrisy.

“You can’t beryllium going retired determination and saying, ‘This warfare was worthless and we request to bring the troops home’ successful May, and present hitting Biden for doing conscionable that,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a Republican who broke with Mr. Trump aft the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and has agelong favored maintaining a subject beingness successful Afghanistan. “There’s nary shame anymore.”

Mr. Trump came into bureau having reversed his party’s long-held presumption connected overseas interventions and called for an contiguous removal of American troops stationed overseas. In February 2020, helium announced a bid pact with the Taliban, negotiated by Mr. Pompeo, that called for ending the American beingness by May 1, 2021.

After his decision past November, Republicans clung to Mr. Trump’s America-first line. They urged Mr. Biden to instrumentality to the May 1 deadline, and publicly groused erstwhile Mr. Biden extended the day for a withdrawal until Aug. 31. “That benignant of reasoning has kept america successful Afghanistan astir 20 years,” Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona complained astatine the time.

But arsenic the Americans’ last days successful Afghanistan devolved past period into a frantic contention to get much than 125,000 radical retired — during which 13 work members were killed successful a bombing onslaught extracurricular the Kabul airdrome — Republican lawmakers and candidates who had embraced Mr. Trump’s statement with the Taliban abruptly changed their tune. They savaged Mr. Biden for negotiating with the Taliban and denounced his avowed eagerness to upwind down the American beingness successful Afghanistan earlier Sept. 11, calling it a motion of weakness.

“I would not let the Taliban to dictate the day that Americans leave,” Mr. McCarthy said astatine a quality league connected Friday. “But this president did, and I don’t judge immoderate different president would, Republican oregon Democrat, extracurricular of Joe Biden.”

Once defined by its hawkishness, the G.O.P. since Mr. Trump’s 2017 predetermination has ruptured into camps of accepted interventionists similar Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who ne'er rather warmed to Mr. Trump’s inward-looking overseas policy, and backers of Mr. Trump’s America-first approach, who shared his impatience successful extricating the federation from intractable conflicts abroad.

Last year, Mr. McConnell, past the bulk leader, took to the Senate level to decry Mr. Trump’s planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, informing that a premature exit would beryllium “reminiscent of the humiliating American departure from Saigon.”

But hitting Mr. Biden unites them all.

The Republican calls for Mr. Biden’s resignation, impeachment oregon removal from bureau nether the 25th Amendment are besides a reminder of however overmuch much polarized the country’s authorities person go since the commencement of the U.S. warfare successful Afghanistan successful the contiguous aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, erstwhile Democrats and Republicans alike agreed down President George W. Bush.

No Republican has turned faster connected the Afghanistan withdrawal than Mr. Trump himself, who aft years of espousing a instrumentality to isolationism has spent the past 2 weeks attacking Mr. Biden for carrying retired the precise withdrawal helium had demanded and past negotiated.

As precocious arsenic April 18, Mr. Trump exhorted Mr. Biden to accelerate the timetable for withdrawal:“I planned to retreat connected May 1st,” helium said. “We should support arsenic adjacent to that docket arsenic possible.”

Once things appeared to spell haywire, however, the erstwhile president began to talk retired against the withdrawal.

On Aug. 24, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Biden of forcing the subject to “run disconnected the battlefield,” leaving “thousands” of Americans arsenic “hostages.” And helium suggested that Mr. Biden should person kept astatine slightest immoderate unit beingness successful Afghanistan.

“We had Afghanistan and Kabul successful cleanable power with conscionable 2,500 soldiers and helium destroyed it erstwhile it was demanded that they flee!” Mr. Trump said.


Credit...Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times

Other Republicans fell successful down Mr. Trump successful attacking the president: Mr. McCarthy urged his lawmakers in a missive this week to marque the lawsuit that Mr. Biden was single-handedly liable for “the worst overseas argumentation catastrophe successful a generation.”

Their efforts, however, person been analyzable by Mr. Trump’s rhetorical reversal, leaving Republicans struggling to articulate a presumption that does not contradict either his erstwhile enactment for leaving Afghanistan oregon his existent stance successful criticizing the pullout.

The results person near it hard to discern precisely what Mr. Trump and his devotees present really believe.

Last week, Mr. McCarthy asserted that the United States should not support immoderate troops successful Afghanistan, but past suggested that it should person held onto Bagram Air Base. Asked if Mr. Trump had been incorrect to negociate with the Taliban, Mr. McCarthy responded alternatively by saying that the chaos of the withdrawal had occurred connected Mr. Biden’s watch, not Mr. Trump’s.

Pressed again Tuesday to accidental whether the United States should support a subject basal successful Afghanistan, Mr. McCarthy again demurred. “The precedence close present is, what is the program to bring radical home?” helium said.

Understand the Taliban Takeover successful Afghanistan

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Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose successful 1994 amid the turmoil that came aft the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan successful 1989. They utilized brutal nationalist punishments, including floggings, amputations and wide executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s much connected their root communicative and their grounds arsenic rulers.

To effort to separate their enactment for the conception of withdrawal from their disapproval of Mr. Biden’s handling of the existent withdrawal, immoderate Republicans — including Mr. Pompeo, the erstwhile caput of state — contend that Mr. Trump would person been tougher and would not person tolerated the Taliban’s beforehand connected Kabul. They suggest that helium would person stopped the withdrawal and declared that the Taliban had violated the conditions of the bid deal.

But the conditions negotiated by the Trump medication were mostly vague, and thing successful the statement mandated that the Taliban halt their subject campaign, refrain from capturing Kabul oregon hold to a power-sharing statement with the Afghan government.

Republicans person yet to sanction circumstantial conditions that they judge the Taliban person violated. And those who praised Mr. Trump’s program but assailed Mr. Biden’s withdrawal person volunteered fewer substantive suggestions for what the president should person done differently.

“There was a program successful spot past twelvemonth that was turned implicit to the Biden medication that I supported and would person worked,” Representative Clay Higgins, a Louisiana Republican, said astatine a quality league Tuesday held by the hard-right House Freedom Caucus.

But helium provided nary specifics astir the blueprint that helium said Mr. Biden had disregarded.

Some of the loudest disapproval of Mr. Biden has travel from lawmakers who had urged him to accelerate the pullout from Afghanistan, reasoning that determination ne'er would beryllium a bully clip to leave.

Mr. Hawley, the Missouri senator, wrote successful November that “the clip has travel to extremity the warfare successful Afghanistan” and asked Mr. Trump’s acting defence caput to region troops “as expeditiously arsenic possible.” In April, helium publically lamented Mr. Biden’s hold of the deadline for withdrawal. But aft Thursday’s bombing, Mr. Hawley called for Mr. Biden’s resignation, arguing that the chaotic withdrawal was not inevitable, but alternatively the merchandise of Mr. Biden’s failed leadership.

“We indispensable cull the falsehood peddled by a feckless president that this was the lone enactment for withdrawal,” Mr. Hawley said.

Those with smaller megaphones besides demonstrated flexibility.

Representative Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin was a cheerleader for Mr. Trump’s withdrawal plans. As the ranking Republican connected the House Oversight Committee’s nationalist information subcommittee, he credited the “Taliban bid treaty” for the months that followed successful which nary Americans were killed successful Afghanistan. Again and again, helium praised Mr. Trump for getting the unit drawdown underway.

Once chaos erupted successful Kabul, however, Mr. Grothman became a large and vocal professional of the pullout. “It does not astonishment me” that the Afghan authorities fell rapidly to the Taliban, helium told WFDL, a section vigor presumption successful his district. He argued that U.S. troops should person stayed on.


Credit...Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“I don’t spot however you tin leave, due to the fact that what’s going to hap if you don’t get radical out, fixed what the Taliban are like?” Mr. Grothman told the vigor station. “Are they going to beryllium sidesplitting people?”

In an interview, Mr. Grothman argued that Mr. Trump had looked beardown successful negotiating the bid woody with the Taliban, portion Mr. Biden’s nonaccomplishment to forestall past week’s unit made him look weak.

He said helium did not callback praising Mr. Trump’s woody to retreat from Afghanistan. Even so, helium added: “We didn’t cognize however the woody was going to play out.”


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