GOP favored withdrawing troops from Afghanistan — when Trump was in charge
Some Republicans now criticizing Biden for the Taliban’s takeover previously praised the Trump administration for its plan to swiftly remove US support from the region.
Several Republican lawmakers who praised former President Donald Trump’s February 2020 announcement that he had struck a deal with the Taliban to end the 20-year-long United States presence in Afghanistan are now placing blame for the country’s collapse on President Joe Biden.
That month, Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban which stated that the United States would withdraw around 5,000 troops from Afghanistan.
The Trump administration planned for the withdrawal to be completed by May 1, 2021.
As recently as this past April, Trump suggested the United States should withdraw from the country even earlier than President Joe Biden’s timeline, which aimed for a Sept. 11 completion date.
“Getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do,” Trump said in a statement. “I planned to withdraw on May 1st, and we should keep as close to that schedule as possible.”
He added, “I made early withdraw possible by already pulling much of our billions of dollars and equipment out and, more importantly, reducing our military presence to less than 2,000 troops from the 16,000 level that was there.”
At the time of his February 2020 announcement, some Republicans lauded the former president for his decision and suggested he had made the right call after decades of U.S. intervention.
In a press release posted to the Republican National Committee’s website, the group praised Trump for signing “a historic peace agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan, which would end America’s longest war.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said in February 2020 that Trump’s agreement with the Taliban to remove American troops was “a sign of progress, & a step toward being able to bring our troops home.”
Not every Republican was on board: Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw criticized the swift withdrawal, claiming in November that the plan “might make some people feel better, but it won’t be good for American security.”
Still, other high profile Republicans issued praise for the president’s deal, including some in his Cabinet.
Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was involved in negotiating the agreement, tweeted in September 2020, “Met with Taliban Political Deputy Mullah Beradar to welcome the launch of Afghan peace negotiations. The Taliban must seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement & reach a comprehensive & permanent ceasefire to end 40 years of war.”
He added, “This effort must be Afghan led.”
And in February this year, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) tweeted criticism of Biden’s plan to extend the Trump administration’s withdrawal timeline to September, amid a spike in violence in the region. “We’ve been in Afghanistan for more than half my life. We need to end the endless wars,” she wrote.
Since then, many of those same Republicans have changed their tune.
Over the weekend, Taliban forces retook several key cities, including the capital city of Kabul, ousting the U.S. and western-backed government there. As the Washington Post noted, the militants faced little resistance from Afghan forces, prompting civilians to flee en masse to the nearby airport, hoping to be evacuated on U.S. military planes.
On Monday, the RNC, which had once boasted of Trump’s deal to withdraw swiftly from the country, tweeted, “With the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, America is now less safe. This is the latest real world, horrific consequence of Biden’s weak foreign policy.”
On Sunday, Boebert tweeted, “Joe Biden was in the Senate when America pulled out of Saigon in 1975. He didn’t learn.”
And in an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Ernst claimed that the country’s collapse “is all on President Biden’s shoulders.”
For his part, Pompeo, who negotiated withdrawal with the Taliban himself, called the group “butchers” after its militants successfully took over the Afghan government, suggesting Biden was to blame for the chaos.
“We demanded a set of conditions and made clear the costs we would impose if they failed to deliver. They haven’t,” he tweeted. “The deterrence we achieved held during our time. This administration has failed.”
Trump himself weighed in on Sunday saying in a statement that Biden should “resign in disgrace for what he has allowed to happen in Afghanistan.”
In the wake of the Taliban’s takeover, humanitarian groups have been forced to hurriedly organize evacuation plans for Afghan civilians, urging governments to facilitate swift passage for them.
“The Taliban have a long record of abusing or killing civilians they deem ‘enemies,'” Patricia Grossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Whether from inside or outside of Afghanistan, governments and UN offices should provide protection and assistance to at-risk Afghans and make processing travel documents and transportation a priority.”
The group recommended that deportations be suspended in light of the current situation.
This story was updated to correct the date on Rep. Lauren Boebert’s February tweet.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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