WASHINGTON – Early last year, California MP Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader, praised former President Donald J. Trump’s deal to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan as a “positive move.” As Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo helped negotiate this deal with the Taliban. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley last November urged the withdrawal as soon as possible.

Now include the three to dozen prominent Republicans who sharply reversed themselves after President Biden enforced the withdrawal – attacking Mr Biden despite keeping a promise Mr Trump made and carrying out a policy they lead to had given their full support.

The collective U-turn reflects the Republicans’ eagerness to attack Mr Biden and ensure he pays a political price for ending the war. With Mr Trump reversing himself as the withdrawal turned chaotic and fatal in its endgame, it also offers new evidence of how allegiance to the former president has come to overcoming concerns about political flip-flops or political hypocrisy.

“You can’t go out in May and say, ‘This war was worthless and we have to bring the troops home,’ and now beat Biden for it,” said Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger, a Republican who went broke with Mr. Trump after the Capitol – January 6 uprising and has long advocated maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan. “It’s no longer a shame.”

Mr Trump took office after revising his party’s longstanding position on foreign intervention and calling for the immediate removal of American troops stationed abroad. In February 2020, he announced a peace treaty negotiated by Pompeo with the Taliban, which provided for the end of the American presence by May 1, 2021.

After his defeat last November, Republicans clung to Trump’s first line of America. They urged Mr. Biden to abide by the May 1 deadline and publicly railed when Mr. Biden extended the date for a withdrawal to August 31, Arizona complained at the time.

But as the last few days of Americans in Afghanistan turned into a frantic race for more than 125,000 people – in which 13 soldiers were killed in a bombing raid outside Kabul airport – Republican lawmakers and candidates who voted Trump’s deal with the Taliban changed theirs Mood abrupt. They devastated Mr Biden for negotiating with the Taliban and condemned his declared zeal to dismantle the American presence in Afghanistan before 9/11, calling it a sign of weakness.

“I would not allow the Taliban to dictate the date of the Americans’ departure,” McCarthy said at a press conference on Friday. “But this president did, and I don’t think any other president, Republican or Democrat, except Joe Biden.”

Once defined by its falconry addiction, the GOP has been part of camps of traditional interventionists such as Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who never fully embraced Mr. Trump’s inward foreign policy, and supporters of Mr. Trump’s America, since Mr. Trump’s election in 2016 – first approach that shared his impatience to rescue the nation from intractable conflicts abroad.

Last year, Mr McConnell, the majority leader at the time, went before the Senate to condemn Mr Trump’s planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, warning that an early exit would be a “reminder of the humiliating American departure from Saigon.”

But beating Mr. Biden unites them all.

Republican calls for the resignation, impeachment or impeachment of Mr Biden under the 25th Amendment are also a reminder of how much more polarized the country’s politics have become since the start of the US war in Afghanistan immediately after September 11th Attacks when Democrats and Republicans alike backed President George W. Bush.

No Republican has turned against the Afghanistan withdrawal faster than Trump himself, who after years of returning to isolationism has spent the last two weeks attacking Biden for carrying out the exact withdrawal he demanded and then negotiated.

On April 18, Trump warned Mr. Biden to speed up the withdrawal schedule: “I planned to resign on May 1st,” he said. “We should stick to this schedule as closely as possible.”

However, when things seemed to get mixed up, the former president began speaking out against the withdrawal.

On August 24, Mr. Trump accused Mr. Biden of forcing the military to “run from the battlefield” and left “thousands” of Americans as “hostages”. And he suggested that Mr. Biden should have kept at least some troop presence in Afghanistan.

“We had Afghanistan and Kabul perfectly under control with only 2,500 soldiers and he destroyed it when they were told to flee!” Mr Trump said.

Other Republicans fell behind Mr Trump in the attack on the president: Mr McCarthy wrote a letter this week calling on lawmakers to argue that Mr Biden was solely responsible for “the worst foreign policy disaster in a generation.”


Sept. 1, 2021, 8:56 p.m. ET

However, their efforts have been hampered by Mr Trump’s rhetorical reversal, leaving Republicans struggling to articulate a view that contradicts neither his previous support for leaving Afghanistan nor his current stance on criticizing the withdrawal.

The results have made it difficult to see exactly what Mr Trump and his supporters are now actually believing.

Last week McCarthy claimed the United States shouldn’t keep troops in Afghanistan but then suggested keeping Bagram Air Base. When asked whether Trump had wrongly negotiated with the Taliban, McCarthy instead replied that the chaos of the withdrawal was under the supervision of Mr Biden, not Mr Trump’s.

Urged again on Tuesday to say whether the United States should maintain a military base in Afghanistan, McCarthy again disagreed. “The priority right now is what is the plan to get people home?” He said.

Understanding the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan

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Who are the Taliban? The Taliban emerged in 1994 amid the unrest following the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including flogging, amputation and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here is more about their genesis and track record as rulers.

Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who for years have been on the run, in hiding, in prison and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to rule, including whether they will be as tolerant as they say they are. A spokesman told the Times that the group wanted to forget their past but had some restrictions.

To try to differentiate their support for the concept of withdrawal from their criticism of Mr Biden’s handling of the actual withdrawal, some Republicans – including Mr Pompeo, the former Secretary of State – claim that Mr Trump would have been tougher and not have tolerated the advance of the Taliban on Kabul. They suggest he stopped the withdrawal and said the Taliban had violated the terms of the peace agreement.

But the terms negotiated by the Trump administration were largely vague, and nothing in the deal required that the Taliban cease military campaigns, not capture Kabul, or agree to a power-sharing deal with the Afghan government.

The Republicans have yet to reveal any specific terms that they believe the Taliban violated. And those who praised Mr Trump’s plan but attacked Mr Biden’s withdrawal have made few substantive suggestions as to what the president should have done differently.

“Last year there was a plan that was handed over to the Biden administration that I supported and that would have worked,” Rep. Clay Higgins, a Louisiana Republican, told a press conference Tuesday held by the far-right House Freedom Caucus was held.

But he made no reference to the blueprint he said had disregarded Mr. Biden.

Some of the loudest criticism of Mr Biden came from lawmakers who urged him to speed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan on the grounds that there would never be a good time to leave.

Missouri Senator Mr. Hawley wrote in November that “the time has come to end the war in Afghanistan” and urged Mr. Trump’s acting Secretary of Defense to withdraw troops “as soon as possible.” In April he publicly complained about Mr. Biden’s extension of the withdrawal period. But after Thursday’s bombing, Mr Hawley called for Mr Biden’s resignation, arguing that the chaotic retreat was not inevitable, but rather the product of Mr Biden’s failed leadership.

“We must reject the lie put forward by a useless president that this is the only option for withdrawal,” said Hawley.

Those with smaller megaphones also showed flexibility.

Wisconsin Rep. Glenn Grothman was a cheerleader for Mr Trump’s withdrawal plans. As the senior Republican on the House Oversight Committee’s National Security Subcommittee, he praised the “Taliban peace treaty” for the months that followed, during which no Americans were killed in Afghanistan. Again and again he praised Mr. Trump for getting the troops off the ground.

However, when chaos erupted in Kabul, Mr. Grothman became a vocal critic of the withdrawal. “It doesn’t surprise me,” that the Afghan government fell quickly to the Taliban, he told WFDL, a local radio station in his district. He argued that US troops should have stayed.

“I don’t see how you can go because what will happen if you don’t get people out in the face of the Taliban?” Mr. Grothman told the radio station. “Are they going to kill people?”

In an interview, Mr Grothman argued that Mr Trump looked strong in negotiating the peace deal with the Taliban, while Mr Biden’s failure to prevent last week’s violence made him look weak.

He said he did not remember praising Trump’s agreement to withdraw from Afghanistan. Still, he added, “We didn’t know how the deal would turn out.”