GOP Begins 2024 Campaign, Blaming Biden for Afghanistan

WASHINGTON: Republican lawmakers highlighted President Joe Biden’s role in the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan as they began their campaign for the 2024 presidential elections this past weekend.

In honour of the 13 American service personnel who lost their lives on August 26 in Afghanistan during the US withdrawal two years ago, Speaker Kevin McCarthy of the US House of Representatives ordered on Saturday that flags at the US Capitol be flown at half-staff.

Republican Congressman Cory Mills from Florida submitted a resolution to impeach US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin for allegedly committing “high crimes and misdemeanours” by overseeing a dishonourable pullout, according to the Republicans.

“The fact that this was a preventable tragedy makes this day all the more difficult,” another Republi­can, Congressman Mark Green of Tennessee, said in a tweet.

On Aug 26, 2021, a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport killed at least 183 people, including 170 Afghan civilians and 13 members of the United States military. And on Aug 31, 2021, the last American soldiers lifted off from this airport, officially ending the 20-year war in Afghanistan, the longest in US history. At its peak in 2011, the US had approximately 100,000 troops across at least ten military bases from Bagram to Kandahar.

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Although the Doha agreement that led to the US withdrawal was finalised by a Republican president, Donald Trump, the actual evacuation happened under a Democrat, President Joe Biden. This provided the Republicans with a unique opportunity to blame Democrats for a disaster which involved both Republican and Democratic administrations – Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden.

At the time of the military evacuation, 54 per cent of Americans told Pew Research, Washington, that the decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan was the right one. But most Republicans (64pc) said it was wrong.

However, both during and after the troop withdrawal, large majorities of Americans expressed negative views of the Biden administration’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan.

An NBC News poll reported that only 25pc of Americans approved the way President Biden handled Afghanistan. And 74pc of Americans told a CBS News poll that President Biden did not have a clear plan for evacuation.

Eager to use this to their advantage, have two congressional probes into the Biden administration’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. The House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is now controlled by the Republicans, has promised to “conduct an aggressive, thorough investigation examining topics including failures in decision-making, withdrawal planning, and the execution of the evacuation.”

The White House, however, has partially blamed the chaotic 2021 US withdrawal on a lack of preparation by President Donald Trump. But a US State Department After Action Review (AAR), released in June, said both the Trump and Biden administrations should have better prepared for the fall of Kabul. “Those decisions are beyond the scope of this review, but the AAR team found that during both administrations there was insufficient senior-level consideration of worst-case scenarios,” the review added.

But this has had little impact on the Republicans who continue to target President Biden.

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