Key Democratic senators pushed back on President Biden’s decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 of this year, warning it could lead to civil war and the loss of rights for women and minorities in that country that were gained over 20 years of war.
“I’ve been to funerals of a more than a few Delawareans who died in the conflict and felt the pain of their parents, spouses, siblings, children. So, the idea of walking away is not an easy thing to accept,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware and former Naval officer who served multiple tours in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. “It’s almost a no-win situation. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
Carper called on the administration to provide a full classified briefing to lawmakers so defense, national security, and diplomatic officials can be pressed on the impact of the withdrawal.
Biden is set to formally announce his decision shortly. An all-senators briefing is expected soon but the timing and participants have not been announced, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.
Carper added: “One of the things my wife and I discussed last night was what a total withdrawal could mean for the Taliban just taking over and wreaking havoc. Great progress had been made on the treatment of women, the rights of women and I fear that may allow them to be eliminated. That progress will be eliminated. That’s very troubling.”
Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire sits on both the Armed Services Committee and Foreign Relations Committee. She has expressed to the administration her strong views against a complete withdrawal but said it’s “not clear” there’s anything else she can do to reverse the decision.
“I’m not sure we should be bound by a negotiation that the Taliban have not kept up their end of the agreement. And I support the recommendation of the Afghanistan Study Group that any withdrawal should be conditioned based,” she said. “I’m very worried about what the impact will be on women and other minorities in the country and the Taliban over running the country in a civil war ensuing.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, said he recognizes that the decision belongs to the President’s but said he will oppose future aid to the country if its civil society backslides.
“That’s the President’s decision and the implementation will be his. But the question is the follow on. In that respect, I’ve made it clear to the administration that I’m not going to support any aide to Afghanistan if we a rolling back of civil society gains, the rights of women and other issues. I will oppose aid if that becomes a reality,” Menendez said.
Arizona Democratic Sen. Krysten Sinema refused to answer a reporter’s questions about the withdrawal but issued a statement saying she wants to learn more details of the administration’s plan and how it won’t hurt national security.
“I look forward to seeing more details about the planned drawdown and how the administration plans to maintain and strengthen America’s national security,” she said.
Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat of Virginia and chair of the Intelligence Committee, said he wants to make sure “there are appropriate intel considerations” when a withdrawal happens.
“We’ve got to make sure that we continue to be able to monitor any upsurge or potential terrorist threat that would emerge in Afghanistan,” he said.
Sen. Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters on that he’s not going to “second guess” the Biden administration’s plan, but he still wants to “hear their rationale. I recognize our circumstances there are less than ideal.”
While several Democrats had deep concerns about withdrawing, others embraced it as long overdue as expressed up by Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat of Michigan and member of the Armed Services Committee.
“It’s past time. We’ve been needing to do it for a while,” he told CNN.