Republican leaders are slamming President Biden for taking a long weekend out of the public eye as major cities fall to the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Biden on Thursday sent 3,000 US troops to Kabul to evacuate US embassy workers as the Taliban overran Herat and Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second and third-largest cities — but he hasn’t commented publicly on the crisis since Tuesday.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Friday that Biden “must immediately focus all efforts on making sure there is a plan to safely extract all American service members and civilians still remaining in Afghanistan.”
“He also owes the American public an answer on what he plans to do to make sure the region doesn’t turn into a breeding ground for more violent extremism that will lead to large-scale global attacks of terrorism,” McCarthy said.
Chad Gilmartin, a top aide to McCarthy, tweeted Thursday, “President Biden spent about 48 hours working at the White House this week. Biden returned from Delaware Tuesday afternoon and just departed back to Delaware for another long weekend…”
Gilmartin added: “Will President Biden find time during his long weekend vacation to comment on his decision to send 3,000 troops to help evacuate the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan?”
The president took no questions as he departed the White House on Thursday afternoon for a trip to his home in Wilmington, Del., and he’s expected to remain out of view for days.
Biden on Friday will travel to Camp David in western Maryland to spend the weekend, before returning again to his home in Wilmington, Del., where he may take a vacation break next week.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended Biden’s weekend plans on Wednesday, telling reporters, he enjoys the “beautiful scenery there.”
“He likes Camp David. It’s a place to be outside, spend time with family, and certainly has beautiful, beautiful scenery there.”
Biden has defended the US departure. On Tuesday, he said that the Afghan military is larger and better-armed than the Taliban and that “they’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation.”
The mounting crisis comes as the US prepares to remove most troops by Aug. 31 after 20 years of war. Although the pullout had bipartisan support — and also bipartisan opposition — even supporters of the exit are slamming Biden.
Former President Donald Trump, who set in motion the withdrawal, said Friday that “I personally had discussions with top Taliban leaders whereby they understood what they are doing now would not have been acceptable.”
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday on Fox News that he was in the room when Trump pointedly informed a top Taliban negotiator that “your village” was at risk of retribution if Americans were harmed.
The catastrophe has been seized upon by war hawks who clashed with Trump over Afghanistan policy, including passing restrictions on his power to remove troops in December by overriding his veto.
Leading hawk Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said Thursday that “America’s enemies know that the slogan ‘ending endless war’ actually means unconditional surrender. That is what we are seeing in Afghanistan today. American weakness is dangerously provocative.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that “President Biden’s decisions have us hurtling toward an even worse sequel to the humiliating fall of Saigon in 1975.”
McConnell added: “President Biden should immediately commit to providing more support to Afghan forces, starting with close air support beyond August 31st. Without it, al Qaeda and the Taliban may celebrate the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks by burning down our Embassy in Kabul.”