The Republican Party Is Trying to Erase Trump’s Role in Afghanistan

Republicans are rewriting the narrative to erase the Trump administration’s own plans to withdraw troops.
August 16, 2021, 5:23pm
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Rally To Protect Our Elections conference on July 24, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Phoenix-based political organization Turning Point Action hosted former President Donald Trump alongside GOP Arizona c
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Rally To Protect Our Elections conference on July 24, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Phoenix-based political organization Turning Point Action hosted former President Donald Trump alongside GOP Arizona candidates who have begun candidacy for government elected roles. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

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The United States has spent nearly 20 years in Afghanistan, spanning four presidential administrations, only to see the Taliban to reassume control of the country almost immediately as the U.S. military and NATO wound down their presence. Republicans aren’t just saddling President Joe Biden with the majority of the blame; they’re writing the Trump administration’s own plans to withdraw out of the narrative entirely.

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The Taliban recaptured provincial capitals all over the country with little resistance as they stormed toward the national capital of Kabul. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country Sunday. and hours later Taliban officials entered the presidential palace and declared that the war was finally over after two decades.

Images of people at the Kabul airport trying desperately to leave the country quickly proliferated across social media, a sign of a coming humanitarian crisis thanks in part to the U.S.’ arduous visa process

As the Taliban rapidly took control of the country again, the media and Republicans saddled the Biden administration with much of the blame; in a closed-door briefing, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the Biden administration’s handling of the end of the war “an embarrassment,” according to Politico. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump and the GOP are attempting to pretend that they didn’t also support the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. 

Trump made multiple statements Sunday bashing his successor, saying in one that it was “time for Joe Biden to resign in disgrace for what he has allowed to happen in Afghanistan,” and adding, “It shouldn’t be a big deal, because he wasn’t elected legitimately in the first place!” (Biden was elected legitimately.)

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In another statement, Trump said Biden’s move to withdraw troops “will go down as one of the greatest defeats in American history!” 

What Trump did not mention is that he had also planned to withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1 if he had won re-election. In one April statement, Trump said he “wished Biden wouldn’t use September 11 as the date to withdraw our troops” because, according to Trump, “We can and should get out earlier.” 

In 2020, the Republican National Committee’s website trumpeted Trump’s preliminary peace deal with the Taliban, signed in February 2020.

“Under the agreement, the U.S. will withdraw nearly 5,000 troops from [Afghanistan] in 135 days in exchange for a Taliban agreement not to allow Afghanistan to be used for transnational terrorism.” The section also notes that the war “is the longest in U.S. history, a conflict that has killed more than 3,500 U.S. and NATO troops and cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $900 billion dollars.”

The section of the website detailing Trump’s support of withdrawing troops was been removed, as Dave Weigel of the Washington Post first noted. The archived page was available as of June 15 and gone by August 15, Saturday. But after this story was published the RNC said it disappeared not because the party was trying to rewrite its position, but because the party “launched a new website last week,” according to RNC deputy communications director Mike Reed. 

The earliest available press release on the GOP’s site is a January 6 post condemning the Capitol riot.

On Saturday, Biden said he would redeploy 5,000 U.S. troops to the country to “make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of US personnel and other allied personnel and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission,” among other moves. He also implicated Trump in the process, saying he “inherited a deal cut by my predecessor… that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001.” 

“I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats,” Biden said. “I would not, and will not, pass this war on to a fifth.”

Editor’s note 8/17: This story has been updated to include the GOP’s explanation of why a post praising former President Trump’s Afghanistan exit strategy disappeared from its website.