U.S. Republicans blast Biden over Afghanistan deaths

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top Republican in the House of Representatives lashed out at President Joe Biden on Friday over the deaths of 13 U.S. service members in Afghanistan but stopped short of joining calls from other Republicans for the Democratic president to resign or face impeachment.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S. August 24, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy instead asked Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi to call lawmakers back from an August break to consider legislation that he said would prevent a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan until all Americans are out of the country.

“This isn’t the tested leadership the president promised. It’s a picture of weakness and incompetence,” McCarthy told a news conference.

“To be commander in chief, you need the faith, the trust and confidence of the American public. President Biden lost all three of those yesterday,” he added.

McCarthy spoke a day after an Islamic State attack that killed at least 92 people, including 13 U.S. service members here, just outside Kabul airport.

U.S. and allied forces are trying to evacuate their citizens and vulnerable Afghans and to withdraw from Afghanistan by an Aug. 31 deadline set by Biden.

Pelosi’s office declined to comment on McCarthy’s request. But on Thursday, a top aide tweeted that “the Minority Leader wants to defund the mission & tie the Commander in Chief’s hands in the middle of the most dangerous days of the operation.”

Biden’s Republican predecessor, President Donald Trump, negotiated the ongoing withdrawal with the Taliban. Many conservatives have ignored that as they called for Biden’s resignation, impeachment or both.

McCarthy deflected a question about whether he agreed with those calls.

“There will be a day of reckoning,” he told reporters, before adding that the immediate focus should be on the evacuation. “Once we get everybody out, then we should start the very next day on the questions and the answers to hold those rightfully accountable for their misactions.”

The bloody and chaotic withdrawal is only the latest issue that Republicans have used to bludgeon Biden’s presidency as they prepare for 2022 midterm elections in which they are favored to retake control of the House. Republicans have also blamed him for a surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, rising crime rates and inflation.

An administration official said it was distasteful that lawmakers were quickly moving to politicize a tragedy and predicted that such efforts could backfire politically.

Some Republicans called for rhetorical restraint.

“While it may be tempting to some to use this moment to score political points, now is not the time for that. My fellow Americans: let’s gather together, mourn the fallen, comfort the hurting, and pray for peace, leadership, and safety,” Republican Senator Kevin Cramer advised on Twitter.

But conservatives, including Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and other members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, have called on Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to resign and have pushed for Biden’s impeachment.

(This story corrects first paragraph to read ‘U.S. service members’ instead of ‘Marines’)

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