WASHINGTON — US Republican lawmakers leveled fierce criticism at Joe Biden’s administration Monday over its withdrawal from Afghanistan, blasting the chaotic exit as an act of shame that left Americans behind to the “mercy of terrorists.”
The criticism came shortly after US military officials announced that the final evacuation flights left Kabul airport in the dark of night, ending the 20-year mission that became America’s longest war and leaving Afghanistan to its new rulers, the hardline Islamist Taliban.
“President Biden is preparing to leave Americans behind in Afghanistan at the mercy of terrorists,” top congressional Republican Kevin McCarthy fumed on Twitter.
US officials have said the evacuation flights have taken more than 123,000 people, many of them Afghans fleeing the Taliban, out of Kabul.
Among them were 6,000 Americans, which US Central Command head General Kenneth McKenzie said was the “vast majority” of those in the country.
But “we did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out,” he said.
It was unclear how many Americans were still in the country. Prior to the withdrawal announcement, a senior US official said Monday that fewer than 250 Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan were still there.
Senator Rick Scott of Florida said that at Biden’s direction, the United States has “stranded” hundreds of its citizens.
“We can’t fight endless wars, but the scope & consequence of Biden’s failure here is staggering,” Scott said.
“President Biden has brought great shame on the American people,” added congressman Richard Hudson.
The criticism by congressman Michael Waltz, a former Special Forces combatant in Afghanistan, was particularly biting.
“The word across the region is that jihad has won, and democracy has lost. That’s shameful,” Waltz said during a Republican roundtable on the US exit. “And that is going to make America less safe and get future American soldiers killed that have to go back to deal with this mess.”
The failure in Afghanistan has served to deepen the polarization that currently grips Washington, where lawmakers used to declare that politics ends at the water’s edge.
Instead, Republicans have used the debacle as a cudgel, with the party hammering Biden over his “failed” withdrawal and the stranding of Americans “behind Taliban lines.”
“Joe Biden left Americans behind,” Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. “His decision to cause this disaster and abandon Americans and our interests proves what we all already knew – Joe Biden is incapable of serving as Commander in Chief and the US and the world are less safe because of him.”