Donald Trump’s heartfelt endorsement of withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan in September has undermined the efforts of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLincoln Project mocks Trump, says he lost to ‘swamp’, McConnell The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Emergent BioSolutions ̵
More broadly, the former president has focused the nation’s attention on China as America’s leading national security issue and put pressure on Senate Republicans to support legislation Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerNYC 24-Hour Metro Service Resumes May 17 Schumer Demands Restoration of 24-Hour New York Metro Service Overnight Health Care: US Bans Most Travel from India | 100 million Americans now fully vaccinated | Schumer backs Sanders on health care (DN.Y.) plans to relocate to respond to Beijing’s growing influence and power.
McConnell is the most powerful Republican leader in Washington, but he does not have the same unrivaled platform as he did when he was in the same position – leader of the minority opposition in Washington – at the start of former President Obama’s term.
McConnell has used Biden’s announcement that he will withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan as a good example of him speaking as a centrist but ruling from the left.
The GOP leader has warned that Biden has ordered “a rapid total withdrawal from Afghanistan” that “will leave coalition partners and vulnerable Afghans high and dry.”
Al Cross, a professor of journalism at the University of Kentucky and a longtime commentator on Kentucky politics, said McConnell is trying to set it up so he can attack Biden if militant extremists take full control of Afghanistan or if terrorist groups use it again as a base to launch attacks on the United States.
“He puts a marker to say ‘I told you so’ when Afghanistan goes to hell,” he said. “He makes these small payments on political investments that may or may not turn out.”
Senate Republican Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph Thune Note: Trump’s critics face anger at GOP base GOP struggles with culture war role in party’s future Trump drama shares GOP, confusing message MORE (SD), McConnell’s potential successor, says Biden’s decision is “a big mistake” and “not the right move.”
“I know there is a lot of pressure from the left in this country to get out of Afghanistan, but we have invested a lot there over a long period of time, and the one thing we do not want to do is create the conditions there. are beneficial for terrorist organizations to train and prepare for and plan attacks on the United States, ”he said in an interview with podcast host David Brody.
Dens. John CornynJohn Cornyn How the United States Can Pass the Civic’s 101 Democrats Accuse GOP of New Lows in Cultural Wars Trump drama shares GOP, confusing message MORE (R-Texas), another member of McConnell’s leadership who could one day be the Senate’s GOP leader, has also criticized Biden’s decision and warned that Afghanistan’s security situation could quickly deteriorate.
“It’s not very encouraging. It sounds to me as if the Taliban have the upper hand, and the challenge will be to continue to remember the lesson of 9/11 that a power vacuum will be filled by the wicked, ”he said after senators received a briefing on Biden’s decision. “It is difficult to know exactly what the plan is. It sounds like it will be: ‘Hope for the best.’ ”
But Trump has undercut the messages from Senate Republican leaders and paved the way for other Republicans to express support for Biden’s decision or at least publicly question the wisdom of keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond the fall.
John Ullyot, a spokesman for the National Security Council under Trump, told The Hill, “President TrumpDonald Trump Facebook Supervisory Board Decides Trump Ban on Wednesday Rubio keeps door open over White House bidding for Lincoln project mocks Trump, says he lost to ‘swamp’, McConnell MORE did a great job of pulling our forces against resistance from the Pentagon, especially last year. All of our troops would actually be home now if he were president. His support for Biden’s attempt to get us out will lead many Republicans who have not publicly stated the opposite view. ”
Trump wanted all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan on May 1 and praised the prospect as “a wonderful and positive thing to do.”
It provides more political coverage for other Republicans to break with their leadership.
McConnell’s leadership on the issue has also been signed by Trump’s calls for Republicans from the Senate to oust him as their leader, something the former president reiterated Thursday.
GOP strategists say the base is with Trump, not McConnell, giving other Republicans an incentive to follow his lead, especially if they seek to run for the White House in 2024 if Trump forgives the race.
“The grassroots are with Trump on this, so therefore the party is with Trump on this issue,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.
He said, however, that McConnell plays the traditional Republican role of pushing a muscular national security position, adding: “Republicans have traditionally been stronger at it than Democrats.”
“Unfortunately, McConnell does not see the bigger picture, which every time we are not focused on China, we lose,” O’Connell said. “The greatest threat in the 21st century to America and all of humanity is China, and anytime you hang around the Middle East for more than 20 years, you are not focused on China.”
Political experts and agents say Trump has helped transform political views on China, making the threat of the new superpower more important to Republican voters. This raises Senate Republicans’ ante in agreeing to support legislation – which is expected to be bipartisan – to respond to growing competition from China when Schumer brings it to the floor.
Other Republicans are shifting their focus away from Afghanistan and to China.
Dens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzNews Stephens says Ted Cruz is more ‘unreliable’ than Eddie Haskell The Hill’s 12:30 report – Presented by ExxonMobil – Trump, Cheney trade jabs Cruz supports Glenn Youngkin in Virginia GOP government primary MORE (R-Texas), a hopeful White House 2024, said he is “glad the troops are coming home,” while Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David Hawley Note: Trump’s critics face anger at GOP base The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Emergent BioSolutions – Biden sales pitch leads to Virginia and Louisiana Exclusive – Cruz, Rubio increases criticism of big business MORE (Mo.), another Republican with the president’s ambitions, tweeted last month: “It’s time for this eternal war to end.”
Dens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump drama separates GOP, confusing message Moderate Republicans welcome Biden’s renewed call for unity Biden gives rise to sweeping changes MORE (R-Alaska), an influential moderate voice, said, “I always thought there would be a time” to leave Afghanistan “because we can not, we can not be a nation with indefinite wars.”
“It should not be the United States of America,” she said, though she also raised concerns about announcing a tough and fast exit date when Afghanistan’s future remains uncertain.
Other Republicans say they believe the Biden administration can protect itself from becoming an incubator for international terrorist organizations, as it was for al Qaeda before the 9/11 attacks.
“I look forward to working with the current administration to continue our efforts to gather intelligence and prevent terrorists from using Afghanistan as their home base,” Sen. Cynthia LummisCynthia Marie LummisGOP frustration with Liz Cheney ‘at a boiling point’ Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill 136 Republicans get Fs in responsibility ranking from anti-Trump GOP group MORE (R-Wyo.) Said last month, adding, “I’m glad our troops are coming home.”
An important Republican trapped in the middle is the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthy The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Emergent BioSolutions – Biden sales height leads to Virginia and Louisiana Vaccine hesitation among lawmakers lowers return to normalcy on Capitol Hill GOP struggles with role as culture warrior in party future (California), who would likely become president if Republicans take Parliament back in 2022, and who is working with Trump on a mid-term strategy.
McCarthy said in August 2017 that the United States “cannot allow terrorists to materialize again,” and that “a secure, stable Afghanistan is essential to U.S. national security.”
In recent weeks, he has kept a low profile on Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan instead of hitting him on other issues in an interview with Fox News Sean HannitySean Patrick Hannity Hannity to interview Caitlyn Jenner after GOP leader announces: Biden ‘makes Bernie Sanders look like a conservative’ CNN: Trump advisers urge him to make pro-vaccine PSA MORE following the President’s speech to a joint session of Congress last week.
Instead, he has let the President of the Republican Conference Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn Cheney Cheney at the donor tree says Trump’s actions ‘a line that cannot be crossed’: report Memo: Trump’s critics face anger at GOP base Allies of GOP leader swear to oust Liz Cheney MORE (Wyo.) Take the lead in criticizing Biden’s Afghanistan decision.
Cheney says it is a “huge propaganda victory” for the Taliban and al Qaeda and “endangers American security.”
But Cheney’s message has been rejected by Trump’s powerful counters.
“This foolish fool wants to stay in the Middle East and Afghanistan for another 19 years, but does not consider the big picture – Russia and China!” Trump said last week in a statement from his leadership PAC.
Trump has been cracking down on Cheney since she voted to convict him of an article accusing him of inciting a January 6 uprising.