Biden faces bipartisan pushback over plan to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11
Deadline date for withdrawal would mark 20th anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks
President Biden is facing bipartisan pushback over his plans to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, as Republicans and Democrats alike sound the alarm over whether the move could be too soon.
The president plans to remove all 2,500 American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, a senior defense official confirmed to Fox News, and plans to make that announcement official during remarks Wednesday afternoon.
BIDEN WANTS TO WITHDRAW ALL 2,500 US TROOPS FROM AFGHANISTAN BY 9/11: SENIOR DEFENSE OFFICIAL
If U.S. troops are withdrawn, that would mean all American forces would be out of the country by the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., slammed the move, saying that "precipitously withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan is a grave mistake."
"It is retreat in the face of an enemy that has not yet been vanquished and an abdication of American leadership," McConnell said.
"Leaders in both parties, including me, offered criticism when the prior administration floated the concept of a reckless withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan," McConnell said, referring to the Trump administration's aim to have all American forces out of Afghanistan, where the Taliban retains significant power, by May 1, if certain conditions in its negotiations with the Taliban were met. But with more than just two weeks until that deadline, it is being pushed back again.
McConnell went on to say that U.S. NATO allies "have practically been begging the United States to stay by their side."
McConnell said in 2019 he authored an amendment, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, which cautioned against "precipitous retreats" from Afghanistan and Syria, and said "a supermajority of senators voted for it."
"The amendment called upon the administration to, quote, 'certify that conditions have been met for the enduring defeat of Al Qaeda and ISIS before initiating any significant withdrawal of United States forces from Syria or Afghanistan,'" McConnell said.
"Can President Biden certify that right now?" He asked.
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"Foreign terrorists will not leave the United States alone simply because our politicians have grown tired of taking the fight to them," he continued. "The president needs to explain to the American people why he thinks abandoning our partners and retreating in the face of the Taliban will make America safer."
But the concerns are not just from Republicans.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., also attacked Biden's plans.
"I'm very disappointed in the president’s decision to set a September deadline to walk away from Afghanistan. Although this decision was made in coordination with our allies, the U.S. has sacrificed too much to bring stability to Afghanistan to leave without verifiable assurances of a secure future," Shaheen said in a statement.
"It undermines our commitment to the Afghan people, particularly Afghan women," she continued. "I urge the Biden administration to make every effort between now and September to safeguard the progress made and support our partners in the formation of an inclusive, transitional government."
And Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., said it is "clear" that the U.S. "won't win the war in Afghanistan," but said "there are still devastating ways we could lose."
There was also bipartisan praise for Biden's plan – with progressives calling it overdue.
"I applaud President Biden for achieving an impossibility here in Washington: ending a forever war," Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said, even as Biden was technically extending the deadline to withdraw troops. "It is an act of extraordinary political courage and vision. After 20 years, thousands of lives lost, and trillions of dollars spent, we are finally bringing home our troops from Afghanistan."
As the 10-year anniversary of the killing of Usama bin Laden approaches on May 1, senior U.S. military leaders have long warned a similar raid would be much more difficult without U.S. military troops based in Afghanistan. The Navy SEAL assault force launched from Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan not far from the border with Pakistan.
The United States has been aiming to draw down its military presence in the Middle East for years, and it is unclear if there are conditions that could delay the removal of American forces from Afghanistan before the Biden administration's target date.
The news was first reported by the Washington Post.
A person familiar with the deliberations told the Washington Post that if the U.S. pushed back its May 1 withdrawal deadline without a clear exit plan by another time "we will be back at war with the Taliban, and that was not something President Biden believed was in the national interest ... We're going to zero troops by September."
Biden had previously hinted that the U.S. was considering delaying the full withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
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"It's going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline," Biden said in late March. "Just in terms of tactical reasons, it’s hard to get those troops out."
"And if we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way," he added.
Fox News' Tyler Olson, Lucas Tomlinson and Jason Donner and the Associated Press contributed to this report.