The Biden administration is facing increased scrutiny by congressmen from both parties following the collapse of Afghanistan to the Taliban earlier this week.
President Joe Biden defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan in a press conference Monday. He criticized the previous three administrations’ handling of the war over the 20 years that the United States has occupied the country. “Our mission was never supposed to be nation-building … [or] creating a unified centralized democracy,” Biden said at one point. He continued, “There was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces,” referencing the several attempts by other administrations to get out of the conflict, but he said, “I stand squarely behind my decision.”
He compared the conflict to Vietnam and asked, “How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan’s civil war? How many more American lives is it worth?”
He concluded by describing some of the plans the administration has to get U.S. citizens, Afghan allies, and vulnerable Afghan citizens out of the country. “The buck stops with me,” said Biden before assuring the nation that he takes full responsibility for the decisions his administration has made.
On Monday, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) asked in a Twitter post, “Is Joe Biden capable of discharging the duties of his office or has time come to exercise the provisions of the 25th Amendment?” The 25th Amendment provides for the removal of a president in the event that he is unable to discharge the duties of his office for mental or physical reasons, but it requires a tough process before the removal can be executed. The vice president and a majority of the president’s cabinet would need to determine that the president was unfit for office. Then, Congress would need to approve this determination by a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and the Senate.
This is an extremely unlikely event, but Biden has other concerns on the horizon as well.
In an interview with Fox News, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) lambasted the administration for its handling of the crisis. Cotton said that reasonable people could disagree on whether or not to bring troops home from Afghanistan, but that Biden’s plan for bringing about this withdrawal was “impotent, incompetent, and a strategic catastrophe for America.” Cotton went on to express fears that this sudden reversal toward Afghanistan’s democratic government—a U.S. ally against the Taliban for nearly two decades—may lower other allies’ confidence in the United States. He said that China recognized the fears that this situation has caused and that it is “already using [those] against us.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said in an interview with a local Missouri station, “I don’t think that we needed to leave and I think leaving will turn out to be a major mistake.” Blunt called this an “unforced error” and expressed his opinion that the United States should have maintained a presence in Afghanistan to stop other terrorist groups from rising.
But Biden has also seen uncharacteristically harsh criticism from his own party as well. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a public statement that “the images from Afghanistan that we’ve seen in recent days are devastating.” He echoed Cotton’s fear that other allies would lose faith in the country’s commitments to its obligations, insisting that “the world must know that the United States stands by her friends in times of need, and this is one of those times.” Warner concluded with the promise that within his committee he would ask “tough but necessary questions about why we weren’t better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces.”
Rep. Crissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) opened her statement with similar criticism of the president: “These past few days have been difficult to process, and not because the Taliban’s progress was surprising. In fact, the opposite. We sounded the alarm, and our dire warnings fell on deaf ears.” Houlahan then promised that she is “committed to being part of those tough conversations and holding accountable those who seemingly misled the American people.”
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), majority chairman for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said that the committee would investigate U.S. policy towards Afghanistan.