President Biden is under fire from lawmakers in both parties over his decision to withdraw U.S. forces by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that prompted the longest war in American history.
Biden is expected to announce Wednesday that he will order the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by September, pushing back a May deadline agreed to by the Taliban and the Trump administration. If he sticks with his plan, it would be a historic step that the previous two administrations vowed but failed to accomplish.
The move, however, is sparking pushback from Republicans and some Democrats who warn that leaving too early or without the right conditions could result in a sharp backslide.
The GOP backlash was swift, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) demanding Biden explain publicly why he’s “abandoning our partners and retreating in the face of the Taliban.”
“Precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake. It is a retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished and abdication of American leadership,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.
Members of his caucus were equally blunt.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called it a “disaster in the making” and “dumber than dirt and devilishly dangerous.”
Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters that the decision was “outrageous.”
“You know, we’re talking about making a political decision on something where there isn’t any justification,” he said. “It should be conditions-based. … It’s the wrong thing.”
House Republicans were similarly incensed, with Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas) saying the withdrawal plan “shows a complete disregard for the realities on the ground, and will not only put Afghans at risk, but endanger the lives of U.S. citizens at home and abroad.”
Biden will formally roll out his plan on Wednesday, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki saying he will talk about “the way forward in Afghanistan.”
Ahead of the speech, administration officials briefed lawmakers on the plan, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Brussels, where they were expected to brief NATO officials on Biden’s decision.
The administration has defended the planned drawdown amid the backlash, with a senior administration official telling reporters that Biden arrived at his decision after a “rigorous policy review.”
“We judge the threat against the homeland now emanating from Afghanistan to be at a level that we can address it without a persistent military footprint in the country and without remaining at war with the Taliban,” the official said.
The Pentagon says it has about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan at this time.