By Melanie Zanona, Jeremy Herb and Alex Rogers, CNN
Republicans in Congress quickly escalated their criticism of President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan after two explosions outside Kabul’s airport on Thursday caused the first American casualties since the mass evacuation began.
While some prayed for the safety of American troops and diplomats in the immediate aftermath of the attack, other Republicans did not wait for more information about what happened before putting the blame squarely on Biden.
“Joe Biden has blood on his hands,” tweeted Rep. Elise Stefanik, the no. 3 House Republican. “This horrific national security and humanitarian disaster is solely the result of Joe Biden’s weak and incompetent leadership. He is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.”
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby confirmed that the explosions “resulted in a number of US and civilian casualties.” CNN reported earlier that US personnel were among the wounded.
Biden has noted that the US withdrawal was set in motion by former President Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban, and vowed to not pass on a war entering its 20th year to a fifth US president. But Republicans quickly expressed their outrage at the White House Thursday after the attack on Americans.
Michigan Rep. Lisa McClain tweeted: “Americans are dying at the hands of President Biden’s catastrophic withdrawal from #Afghanistan.”
And Georgia Rep. Jody Hice, a conservative hardliner and Trump loyalist, tweeted that Biden needs to “RESIGN NOW!!.”
Others in the GOP renewed their calls to postpone the August 31 evacuation date, while South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said this should prompt US military to retake Bagram Air Base north of Kabul and run evacuation flights from there.
“I urge the Biden Administration to reestablish our presence in Bagram as an alternative to the Kabul airport so that we do not leave our fellow citizens and thousands of Afghan allies behind. It is not a capability problem, but a problem of will,” Graham tweeted.
And some Republicans simply offered thoughts and prayers for the troops, including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Senate GOP Whip John Thune and Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer, one of the lawmakers who took a controversial trip to Afghanistan this week.
“My heart breaks for the U.S. servicemembers wounded in the explosion and the innocent Afghan lives lost,” tweeted Utah Sen. Mitt Romney. “I am inspired by the strength and compassion of our troops and pray for their safety.”
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CNN’s Kristin Wilson, Kevin Liptak and Annie Grayer contributed to this report.
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