Trump backs Afghanistan withdrawal, breaking with GOP allies
▶ Watch Video: Taliban responds to President Biden’s announcement delaying Afghanistan troop withdrawal to September
Washington — Former President Donald Trump on Sunday expressed support for pulling U.S. military forces out of Afghanistan, calling a withdrawal “wonderful and positive,” but pushed back on President Biden’s September 11 deadline for leaving the country.
Mr. Trump said in a statement he believes the U.S. should leave Afghanistan earlier than when Mr. Biden has called for, and took credit for laying the groundwork for American troops to leave the country before September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that launched the U.S. into its longest war.
“I made early withdraw possible by already pulling much of our billions of dollars and equipment out and, more importantly, reducing our military presence to less than 2,000 troops from the 16,000 level that was there,” he said.
The former president also said September 11 is a significant date for the nation “and should remain a day of reflect and remembrance honoring those great souls we lost.”
“Getting out of Afghanistan is a wonderful and positive thing to do,” Mr. Trump said. “I planned to withdraw on May 1st, and we should keep as close to that schedule as possible.”
Mr. Biden announced last week plans to pull all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by September 11, but said the U.S. will begin its final withdrawal before the start of the next month.
With the president’s September target date, the Biden administration will miss a May 1 deadline for fully leaving Afghanistan set by the Trump administration in an agreement with the Taliban last year.
Despite his disagreement over when to do so, Mr. Trump’s support for leaving Afghanistan put him at odds with some of his closest Republican allies in Congress.
GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina criticized the former president’s characterization of withdrawal as “wonderful” and “positive,” and said leaving Afghanistan would allow the country to become a safe haven for terrorists or lead to civil war.
“We will see if ‘General’ Biden and ‘General’ Trump’s withdrawal strategy turns out to be sound national security policy,” Graham said.
Other Republican lawmakers condemned Mr. Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan following his announcement last week. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said withdrawing American troops is “gift wrapping the country and handing it right back” to U.S. adversaries, while Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, top Republican on the Senate Armed Services committee, called the decision “outrageous.”
Like with Mr. Biden, Republicans condemned a plan from Mr. Trump last year to reduce U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan to 2,500 by mid-January.