Fall of Afghanistan: Criticism of Biden grows over serious, serious mistake

Democrats last night sought to distance themselves from Joe Biden as fierce criticism of the president threatened to make him a political liability ahead of congressional elections next year.

The party controls both the Senate and House of Representatives by small margins and Republicans believe the president’s handling of the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan could help them win back power.

One Democratic insider told The Daily Telegraph: “He was right to withdraw but the perception is, he’s made a serious, serious mistake. How he got himself into this mess is beyond me, and it’s done some serious harm to him.”

In the key state of Pennsylvania the fact Biden was born there proved a major electoral boost for Democrats in 2020.

But Susan Wild, a Democrat congresswoman from Pennsylvania, strongly criticised the president.

She said: “The evacuation process appears to have been egregiously mishandled. We need answers and accountability regarding the cascading failures that led us to this moment. Our troops deserve nothing less than a complete and unvarnished truth.”

White House officials appeared stung by criticism from fellow Democrats. In response to Wild’s comments Jen Psaki, the White House spokeswoman, said: “It is easy to throw stones and be a critic from the outside. It is harder to be in the arena and make difficult decisions.”

There was particular anger, including among Democrats, that the names of US citizens and Afghan allies had been given to the Taliban so they could be let past checkpoints. In Washington, Bob Menendez, the Democrat who chairs the Senate foreign relations committee, said: “We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security.”

The deadly suicide bombing at Kabul airport, which claimed the lives of 13 US troops and scores of Afghans, led to a rare moment of unity among Republicans.

Moderate Republicans joined allies of Donald Trump in lambasting Biden. Some called for the resignation of the president and his closest advisers, while others suggested he should be impeached or removed as unfit under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.

Ben Sasse, a prominent Republican critic of Trump, said: “This is the nightmare we feared, and why for weeks military intelligence and congressional leaders from both parties have begged President Biden to stand up to the Taliban, and push out the airport perimeter.”

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, said Congress should be recalled from recess, and the withdrawal of troops should be stopped “until every American is safely out”.

He said: “This is a picture of weakness and incompetence. To be commander-in-chief you need the faith, the trust, and the confidence of the American public. President Biden lost all three of those yesterday.”

Referring to the sharing of intelligence with the Taliban, Republican senator Marco Rubio said: “The president basically provided the Taliban with a user-friendly kill list.”

Republicans have requested that documents relating to decisions on the Afghanistan withdrawal be preserved, suggesting a potential future inquiry.

Trump said: “We look like fools all over the world, we are weak, we are pathetic, we are being led by people that have no idea what they are doing.”

The day after the bombing, Biden met in the Oval Office with Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett.

Biden said the mission in Afghanistan was “dangerous” but “worthy”. He added: “We will complete the mission.”

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Mr Biden’s standing with independent voters had plummeted by 14 percentage points since June. Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Centre for Politics, told The Telegraph: “Republicans can use this to stir up their base.” But he added: “This is foreign policy and it’s over a year to the midterm elections.”

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