U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan brings Biden new tests at home

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks about Afghanistan, in Washington
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks about Afghanistan, from the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. August 26, 2021.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

President Joe Biden will herald the end of America’s involvement in Afghanistan on Tuesday, but the chaotic and deadly nature of the U.S. withdrawal and the relocation of tens of thousands of Afghan evacuees will present fresh challenges in the months ahead.

The departure of the last U.S. troops this week as the Taliban took over Afghanistan caps two decades of military involvement that Biden was determined to end.

While most Americans agreed with him, that end has not come smoothly. Biden’s presidency, which had been focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic and rebuilding the economy, faces political probes over the handling of the withdrawal as well as the logistical challenge of finding new homes for thousands of Afghans being moved to U.S. military bases.

Biden also must contend with a surge in coronavirus infections, disasters like hurricanes and wildfires, and a series of difficult deadlines https://www.reuters.com/world/us/biden-faces-gauntlet-deadlines-afghanistan-infrastructure-budget-2021-08-25 to get signature spending measures through Congress.

Republicans and some Democrats have expressed frustration and anger at the rapid fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, the former leaders who were ousted by the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and what they say has been a botched withdrawal. An estimated 100 or more Americans remain stranded in the country.

Republicans are expected to use the crisis to try to derail Biden’s policy and legislative agenda and as a talking point in the 2022 midterm elections. Republicans hope to take control of the Senate and House of Representatives from Biden’s Democrats, which could hobble the second half of his presidency.

Biden is slated to make his televised speech from the White House at 2:45 p.m. EDT. He has said repeatedly he does not regret his decision to leave.

Officials have said more troops would have had to go to Afghanistan and into harm’s way if the exit had not occurred.

“This afternoon, the President will express his thanks to the commanders and service members who executed a dangerous mission in Kabul and airlifted more than 124,000 people to safety; he will also offer thanks to the veterans and volunteers who supported this effort,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Tuesday ahead of Biden’s speech.

Less than 40% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the withdrawal, and three quarters wanted U.S. forces to remain in the country until all American civilians could get out, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Monday.

Leading House Republicans, including the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, said they wrote on Monday to Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, requesting details of the plan to repatriate Americans and evacuate others left behind.

“Congress has a right to know how these evacuations will be facilitated and conducted,” McCaul said in a statement.