WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden faced sharp criticism from Republicans in Congress as Taliban fighters stormed Kabul on Sunday, the culmination of a monthslong offensive that began after the U.S. began to pull back troops this year.
“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.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country Sunday, saying he feared bloodshed. U.S. forces rushed to evacuate all remaining embassy staffers from Kabul as Taliban fighters appeared to be on the brink of taking power.
Another 1,000 U.S. troops will be deployed to help with the deteriorating security situation in Kabul, two Defense Department officials said Sunday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the withdrawal was “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.
Some Republicans from the hawkish wing of the party also opposed former President Donald Trump’s attempts to withdraw from Afghanistan.
The Taliban ordered their fighters to enter Kabul because they believed police had deserted all their positions, a Taliban spokesman told NBC News. NBC News could not confirm the claims.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina echoed his Republican colleagues, saying in a tweet that Biden “seems oblivious to the terrorist threats that will come from a Taliban-run Afghanistan.”
Cheney added that Biden “absolutely” bears responsibility for the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, “as does Trump and his administration.”
“It’s not just that people predicted that this would happen. Everyone was warned that this would happen,” she said.
Biden announced the full withdrawal of U.S. forces in April. The Taliban’s rapid advance across the country had left the government on the brink of collapse, blindsiding U.S. officials who had not anticipated that the capital would fall so quickly.
“This is an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “This will be a stain on Biden’s presidency, and I think he is going to have blood on his hands for what they did.”
The Biden administration “totally blew this one” and completely underestimated the strength of the Taliban, said McCaul, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
A White House official said Sunday that Biden had spoken to members of his national security team “on the situation in Afghanistan” and would continue to get updates throughout the day. Biden has continued to defend his decision.
“I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth,” Biden said in a statement Saturday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., lauded Biden and continued to voice her support for his decision.
“The President is to be commended for the clarity of purpose of his statement on Afghanistan and his action,” Pelosi said in a statement.
“The Taliban must know that the world is watching its actions,” she said.