“With all due respect to President Biden, you have not ended the war, you’ve extended it,” the South Carolina Republican said during a Capitol Hill press conference. “You have made it bigger, not smaller.”
Biden announced Wednesday that he will pull out all American forces, totaling about 2,500, by Sept. 11 — two decades after the deadliest strike on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor took place. The new date set by Biden actually pushes back the May 1 deadline established under a peace agreement between former President Donald Trump and the Taliban last year (which Graham also criticized).
“It is time to end America’s longest war,” Biden said from the White House Treaty Room. “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result.”
The war has killed more than 2,200 U.S. troops and wounded 20,000, according to data published by the Department of Defense. It has cost more than $2.2 trillion, according to one analysis conducted by Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs.
But Graham claimed that Biden’s decision risks seeing the country’s civil war escalate and groups like al Qaeda and ISIS return to power. He pointed to the total withdrawal of troops from Iraq in 2011 under former President Barack Obama, which critics say led to the rise of ISIS.
“The likelihood of this happening again is going through the roof after President Biden’s decision today,” Graham said. “He’s setting Afghanistan on a path to deteriorate rather quickly and for the enemy, radical Islam, to reconstitute. It can all be avoided with a minimal commitment compared to the past.”
Biden’s announcement came just one day after a new intelligence report offered a bleak assessment of peace prospects in Afghanistan, with American intelligence officials agreeing that a peace deal is unlikely in the next year. The report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence also warned “the Afghan Government will struggle to hold the Taliban at bay if the coalition withdraws support.”
“President Biden, unfortunately, has chosen the highest risk option available, which is to leave no matter what,” Graham said.