Moderate Democrats are angry with the Biden administration for their dire plans to evacuate the Americans and their allies. Liberal Democrats, who have long tried to end military engagements around the world, grumble that the images from Kabul are damaging their cause.

And Republicans, who months ago hailed former President Donald J. Trump’s even faster schedule to end US military involvement in the nation’s longest war, have brushed aside their earlier encouragement to accuse President Biden of humiliating the nation.

If Mr Biden hoped to find cover from politicians from both parties who had achieved broad consensus on the withdrawal, he has found little so far.

Faced with images of panicked Afghans bullying Kabul airport and inundated with appeals from Afghans seeking refuge, some Democrats openly attacked their president’s performance on Monday.

“I’ve been asking the administration for a refugee evacuation plan for months,” said Seth Moulton, Rep., Democrat of Massachusetts and former Marine Corps captain. “I was very clear: ‘We need a plan. We need someone to be in charge. ‘ To be honest, we still haven’t really seen the plan. “

“You had the opportunity for weeks. They had an amazing coalition of liberal and conservative lawmakers ready to assist the government in this effort, ”continued Moulton, who serves on the Armed Services Committee. “In my opinion, this was not only a national security mistake, it was also a political mistake.”

Some Liberal Democrats made appearances on television broadcast by White House officials on Twitter ahead of Mr Biden’s speech to the nation at the White House in defense of the President. However, finding few vocal defenders, administrative aides distributed topics to talk to Democrats in Congress to bolster the president’s position.

The government said the collapse of the Afghan government and the resulting chaos were not indictments of US policies, but evidence that the only way to prevent a disaster would have been to increase the presence of American troops. And in response to critics who say the president was caught on the wrong foot, the topics of the conversation read: “The government knew that there was a possibility that Kabul could fall to the Taliban. It wasn’t inevitable. It was a possibility. “

Rep. Barbara Lee, Democrat of California, who has been one of the fiercest voices against the wars that followed the 11th attacks for more than two decades, added, “We’ve been there for 20 years, spent over $ 1 trillion and trained over 300,000 of the Afghan armed forces. “

Rep. Jake Auchincloss, a Democrat of Massachusetts and a former Marine officer who served in Helmand Province, argued that Mr Biden’s only possible options would be to increase the American military presence in Afghanistan as the deadline for withdrawal agreed by Mr Trump. came and went – or to “finally tell the American people the truth”.

“What I have heard from voters,” he said in an interview, “is that what we are seeing in Afghanistan is worrying, but that people appreciate the President’s integrity for emphasizing that there is no end there are. Twenty years has been a long time to give Afghan leaders time to sow the seeds of civil society and instead they have only sown the seeds of corruption and incompetence. “


Aug. 16, 2021, 3:50 p.m. ET

In private, the Liberal Democrats were appalled by the widening catastrophe that Afghan refugees were exposed to. And some worried that the images of chaos in Kabul would serve as a cudgel for restrictive Republicans like Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, to crack down on Democrats pushing for permits to use military force to be revoked who were in 1991 before the Gulf War, in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, and in 2002 before the US invasion of Iraq.

The Democratic left flank has pushed for substantial cuts in military spending and the Department of Defense’s overseas operations, as well as a realignment of government priorities for poverty reduction, education and childcare. But they now have to grapple with indelible images of the cost of US withdrawal.

Rep. Daniel Crenshaw, Republican of Texas and former Navy SEAL, wielded that stick when he said of Fox and Friends on Monday, “We’re getting this because we’re focusing on hollow slogans like ‘Bring the Troops Home’ and ‘No Endless Get more. ‘”

Mr McConnell, who had been ruthless during Mr Trump’s tenure in his disdain for the former president’s desire to keep his campaign promise and withdraw troops from Afghanistan, pounded Mr Biden in a statement, saying that the nation’s enemies ” watch “embarrassment of a superpower that has been laid deep.”

“America’s two decades of engagement in Afghanistan have had many writers,” said McConnell. “Just like the strategic missteps along the way. But while the monumental collapse predicted by our own experts is happening in Kabul today, the responsibility rests directly on the shoulders of our current commander in chief. “

Few Republicans, however, were willing to allude to the role of one of Mr Biden’s predecessors – or that Mr Trump had supported an even faster withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and, in April, called ending the war “a wonderful and positive thing”. “

Rep. Andy Biggs, Republican of Arizona and chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, accused Biden on Monday of “abandoning Trump’s peace plan and exit strategy and creating his own arbitrarily”. In February, he wrote to Mr Biden pleading with him to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan “in the coming weeks”.

But in a sign that lawmakers believed the withdrawal from Afghanistan was still supported by large American voters – at least for now – even some notoriously radical Republicans refrained from condemning the decision themselves.

“There is a difference between the decision to back out and the way that decision was carried out,” said Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, on Fox and Friends.

“Whatever you think of the initial decision, the execution of Joe Biden was ruthlessly negligent,” he said, adding that “everything” Biden “might have to wait a few more months” to begin the withdrawal.

The political ramifications of the chaos and possible bloodshed in Afghanistan are not clear either in next year’s mid-term congressional elections or in the 2024 presidential election. Mr Trump felt the political advantage of retreating when he signed a peace deal with the Taliban and even invited Taliban leaders to Camp David from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan ahead of the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. (The idea was quickly foiled.)

As soon as the images of Kabul fade off television screens this week, relief that the war was over – at least for US troops – could be the dominant emotional outcome.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona and a former Marine who served in Iraq, said in a long statement on Twitter that the American public simply “stopped caring about Afghanistan years ago.”

“Our military has not abandoned Afghanistan. The American people have not abandoned Afghanistan, ”wrote Mr Gallego. “Hubris of us, the elites in Washington, DC, did that. We did not understand Afghanistan and we did not understand the will of the American public for a long commitment … again. “

Jonathan Weisman contributed to the coverage.