- Since the Taliban captured Kabul, Democrats and Republicans have attacked the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
- But prominent progressive lawmakers avoided criticizing President Joe Biden this week.
- The crisis in Afghanistan could pose a test for the Democratic party in the 2022 midterm elections.
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It’s been a week since the Taliban captured Kabul, triggering the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government, forcing a chaotic and ongoing evacuation of American and Afghan refugees, and heightening fears about the country’s future.
The swift upheaval reverberated through Congress, with Republicans and Democrats ripping into the US’s actions. Democratic-led committees called for investigations into Biden’s military withdrawal. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy demanded a briefing from the White House on plans to ensure the safe transport of Americans out of the country.
Yet as harrowing scenes from Kabul dominated national news this week, progressive lawmakers, known for being critical of both parties and often quick to shed light on human rights abuses, have largely stayed quiet and avoided criticism of Biden.
Some prominent progressives have so far limited their public response to a single tweet. Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who regularly uses Twitter to raise awareness about issues to her 12.7 million followers and hit back at other politicians, wrote once about the situation on Monday, a day after Kabul fell to the Taliban.
“For all those who lost, sacrificed, suffered, and served in the last 20 years of war and occupation, the United States has a singular responsibility in extending safe refuge to the Afghan people,” she wrote.
Ocasio-Cortez has previously characterized the US’ war in Afghanistan as a “mistake,” but did not scrutinize Biden’s handling of the US’ exit.
The New York firebrand usually does not shy away from criticizing members of her party: In May, Ocasio-Cortez stood up to Biden over his response to the violence in Gaza, claiming his words “dehumanize Palestinians & imply the US will look the other way at human rights violations.”
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont supported the US’ drawdown from Afghanistan. He posted once last Sunday about the fallout on Twitter, writing: “After 20 years of U.S. effort … Afghanistan was left with a corrupt government and an ineffectual military. At this moment, we must do everything we can to evacuate our allies and open our doors to refugees.”
Sanders, who has become a close ally to Biden, similarly avoided criticism of the president.
Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, who has used her activist background to push her agenda, also mentioned Afghanistan in a tweet on Sunday, with no mention of Biden.
-Cori Bush (@CoriBush) August 15, 2021
Recently, Bush led a sit-in at the steps of the Capitol to increase pressure on the Biden administration to extend a federal eviction moratorium.
Ocasio-Cortez, Bush, and Sanders did not immediately return Insider’s requests for comment.
Afghanistan could present a major blow to Biden and the Democrats, who hope to maintain their House and Senate majorities in the upcoming 2022 midterm elections.
A CBS poll on Sunday found that most Americans support Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan, but say the removal of US troops has gone badly. Around 53% of respondents disapprove of Biden’s handling of the withdrawal.
The lack of pushback from progressives also comes as the new Taliban government presents an uncertain future for Afghans. The militant group has attempted to present a moderate stance, claiming they will not impose strict restrictions, such as forbidding women’s education, as they had from 1996 to 2001. But history provides reasons to remain skeptical, and Taliban forces have already started attacking Afghans as of last Sunday.
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