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Lawmakers React to Biden’s Plan to Remove Troops from Afghanistan By 9/11

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President Joe Biden is facing pushback from some members of Congress who say they weren’t briefed on his upcoming announcement that he’ll remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11 and have more questions about what will happen in the region under the new timeline.

Some lawmakers have pushed to remove thousands of remaining military members earlier, while others worry about destabilizing the region without a path to progress.

“I want to hear the administration’s rationale for it,” Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, told reporters at the Capitol on Tuesday, adding that he understands the push to end America’s longest war two decades after the terrorist attack that led to it.

“I just am concerned that after so much blood…that we don’t lose what we were seeking to achieve,” he added, referring to the more than 2,000 soldiers who have died in the war there.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the Biden administration of making a “grave mistake” to “turn tail and abandon the fight” in Afghanistan.

“It is retreat and abdication of American leadership,” the Kentucky Republican said from the Senate floor Tuesday shortly after news broke that Biden will unveil his proposal Wednesday.

Biden predecessor Donald Trump last year hashed out an agreement with the Taliban to have all American troops out of Afghanistan by May 1—a deadline the Biden administration since signaled it would be unlikely to make.

“The president has been consistent in his view that there’s not a military solution to Afghanistan—that we have been there for far too long,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday. “He also believes we need to focus our resources on fighting the threats we face today, almost 20 years after the war began.”

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Senate Armed Forces Committee Chair Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who was in the U.S. Army for two decades, was one of few lawmakers who told reporters he had been briefed earlier in the week. He said he thinks there’s “no easy answer.”

“We still have vital interests in protecting against terrorist attacks that could be emanating from that area, but there are other places in the world, too, where you have to be conscious,” he said.

“I think, again, we have to focus on what’s ahead, which is engagement diplomatically, engagement, hopefully, with the international community to provide resources to sustain the gains we made there, and then a very, very determined counterterrorism operation.”

But several lawmakers on Capitol Hill offered a mixed review and had questions about the proposal, saying they had not yet been formally briefed on the plan.

“It’s outrageous—we’re talking about making a political decision on something where there isn’t any justification,” Senator Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, told reporters. “It should be conditions-based, conditions-based, conditions-based. It’s not.”

Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who served in the National Guard, told reporters she also wanted more information about the timing.

“It should be a conditions-based withdrawal, and not just because it’s the 20th anniversary of 9-11,” she said. “I think we need to evaluate what’s going on on the ground, make sure that we are working with officials in Afghanistan.”

Senator Pat Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said he sees no alternative.

“What choices does he have?” Leahy said. “There are no good choices.”

President Joe Biden meets with members of Congress in the Oval Office at the White House on April 12, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Biden and the bipartisan group of politicians discussed the American Jobs Plan, the administration’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal.
Amr Alfiky-Pool/Getty Images

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