Congressional reaction to Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal has been scathing

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, seen here at the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 11, gave blistering remarks about the Biden administration's actions in Afghanistan.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, seen here at the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 11, gave blistering remarks about the Biden administration's actions in Afghanistan.
Liz Lynch/Getty Images

Updated August 16, 2021 at 1:54 PM ET

Congressional outcry over the Biden's administration's handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban's take over of the country has been swift.

Criticism of the administration was bipartisan: Republicans were scathing about the White House's actions, and Democrats, while acknowledging that Biden was carrying out the policies of his predecessor, criticized the haphazard manner of the U.S. withdrawal.

Here's a look at what members of Congress have said.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware

Delaware Democrat Tom Carper is an ally of President Biden.
Delaware Democrat Tom Carper is an ally of President Biden.
Susan Walsh/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Carper, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and an ally of the president, said in a statement that the withdrawal of U.S. troops "should have been carefully planned to prevent violence and instability."

"We must act swiftly to protect Americans and our Afghan allies and partners on the ground," he said. "We cannot abandon those who fought by our side who now face mortal danger from the Taliban's takeover. We have a moral obligation to act immediately to protect their lives and a national security imperative to ensure that Afghan soil does not again become a source of terrorist attacks on our allies and our homeland."

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire

New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen is a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees.
New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen is a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sen. Shaheen, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, said in a statement the images of Afghan civilians at the airport pleading to be evacuated are "seared into our minds."

"Dire conditions on the ground persist today and without swift, decisive action from the administration, Afghan civilians will suffer or die at the hands of the Taliban," she continued.

She called for an immediate expansion of the refugee program for Afghan women seeking asylum.

"A failure to act now will seal their fate, and the generation of girls who grew up with freedoms, education and dreams of building their country's future will die with them."

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is shown here on Aug. 10.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is shown here on Aug. 10.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Senate minority leader has called the Biden administration's exit from Afghanistan a "shameful failure of American leadership."

"The rapid advance of the Taliban was expected after the U.S. abandonment of Afghan security forces. The plight of innocent Afghans was predicted, and the challenges of safely evacuating U.S. personnel and innocent Afghans have been magnified by our inexplicable withdrawal from Bagram Air Base. And the likelihood that Al Qaeda will return to plot attacks from Afghanistan is growing," he said in a statement Sunday.

"Everyone saw this coming except the President, who publicly and confidently dismissed these threats just a few weeks ago."

He said the U.S. had the capability to avoid this "disaster."

"Terrorists and major competitors like China are watching the embarrassment of a superpower laid low," he said.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California

Rep. Barbara Lee, seen here during a May press conference, voted against two war powers measures passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Rep. Barbara Lee, seen here during a May press conference, voted against two war powers measures passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Lee, who in 2001 and 2002 voted against two war powers measures passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, told MSNBC that the priority right now should be the safety of American citizens, diplomats, and Afghan allies.

"This is an example, though that there is no military solution, unfortunately, in Afghanistan," she added. "We've been there 20 years, we have spent over a trillion dollars and we have trained over 300,000 of the Afghan forces, so I think the president is absolutely correct."

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio

Rep. Steve Chabot, seen here during a July 2020 hearing, is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. Steve Chabot, seen here during a July 2020 hearing, is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Erin Scott/Getty Images

Chabot is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and had expressed concerns over President Biden's decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan in 2020. He previously criticized former President Trump's efforts to reduce the military presence in Afghanistan. On Sunday, he told NPR's Don Gonyea he believes U.S. troops should have stayed in Afghanistan in a limited capacity.

"I don't think any of us necessarily want the United States to be the world's policeman, but we do have a role to play in the world today," he said. "And we're either going to be a leader or we're not."

He called the administration's actions a "travesty" and that history is repeating itself.

"[Former President Barack Obama] was warned not to pull all troops out of Iraq. He did that. The result was ISIS and innocent people being murdered, thousands and thousands in U.S. troops having to be sent back in," he described. "Unfortunately, we're seeing a very similar virtually the exact same thing here in Afghanistan. This president, President Biden, was warned. He decided to ignore those warnings."

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, seen here during a July 2021 hearing, is a member of the air national guard.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, seen here during a July 2021 hearing, is a member of the air national guard.
CHIP SOMODEVILLA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Illinois Republican who is also a member of the air national guard told NPR's Tamara Keith the situation unfolding in Afghanistan was "totally avoidable" and "is heartbreaking."

"I'm trying to keep myself calm, but I am beyond angry," he said.

"When all of a sudden you hear that your strongest and most important ally is abandoning you because 'the war can't be won,', well, if you're an Afghan military soldier, you're going to sit here and think maybe I'm just going to go back and be with my family," he said. "The Afghan military, of course, had a long ways to go, but they were carrying the brunt of the combat operations. But under President Trump, and now President Biden, they rushed for the exit, and they thought it would be a political win, and it's gonna be a huge disaster for both."

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas

Rep. Michael McCaul, seen here during a June 2021 forum, is the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Rep. Michael McCaul, seen here during a June 2021 forum, is the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

McCaul is the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has been one of the most outspoken critics of the withdrawal. He told NPR he's continually argued for a "light footprint" in Afghanistan, saying "2,500 soldiers is a very small price to pay for stability."

"We're seeing this nightmare unfold — unmitigated disaster of epic proportions, and what I really worried about the most are the women left behind and what's going to happen to them," he said, noting that his office has been inundated with calls from people trying to get their families out of the country.

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana

Rep. Mike Johnson, seen during a House debate session on Jan. 6, 2021, has said President Biden is "clearly in far over his head."
Rep. Mike Johnson, seen during a House debate session on Jan. 6, 2021, has said President Biden is "clearly in far over his head."
Handout/Getty Images

During a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the Voting Rights Act, ranking member Johnson used his opening statement to decry the situation in Afghanistan and lay the blame squarely at the feet of President Biden.

"The American people woke this morning to yet another incomprehensible and utterly avoidable disaster created by the obviously incompetent by the administration," he said. "The president is clearly in far over his head."

He called for "top to bottom accountability at the Pentagon and within the administration for this disaster."

Johnson criticized Biden for staying at Camp David during the weekend's events.

"Stunning failure has been met with silence from President Biden calls into serious question his ability to carry out his duties as Commander in Chief," he said.

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