Critics hammer Politico headline claiming 'Republicans fixate' on Biden's 'messy' Afghanistan withdrawal

Politico was swiftly criticized on Tuesday over a headline posted to social media that said “Republicans fixate” on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which included a terrorist attack that killed 13 service members.

“Republicans fixate on messy Afghanistan withdrawal,” Politico’s headline read.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and retired Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who served as commander of United States Central Command (CENTCOM), testified before Congress on Tuesday about the withdrawal.

McKenzie argued that the decision to authorize a non-combatant evacuation during the final days of the U.S. war in Afghanistan came too late.

Politico was criticized on Tuesday for a headline that said the GOP was fixated on the “messy withdrawal from Afghanistan.” ((Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)/ Politico screenshot)


Journalists and more criticized the headline, taking issue with the “fixate” framing as well as the notion of a “messy” withdrawal.

“President Joe Biden’s poll numbers tanked three years ago as U.S. forces left Afghanistan, especially after an ISIS suicide bomber killed 13 American service members outside Kabul’s airport. Republicans have since tried to make the withdrawal a political albatross to hang around Biden’s neck, leading Democrats to defend him on the committee dais and beyond,” Politico’s report reads.

“Yeah why would anyone fixate on a disastrous withdrawal (collapse?) that needlessly killed more than a dozen US soldiers and emboldened revanchist regimes all over the world with a nearly unprecedented spectacle of American weakness and incompetence?” The Federalist’s John Daniel Davidson responded.

“Has there been any accountability at all for that disaster?” Mark Hemingway, senior writer at Real Clear Investigations, said.

McKenzie, who was in command of all U.S. forces in Afghanistan in the war’s final days, noted during his testimony on Tuesday that the military had warned leaders and the Biden administration about any dangers related to the pace of the withdrawal, with the former general telling lawmakers that he had expressed such concerns to the State Department over a month before the chaotic evacuation of Kabul’s airport.

Retired Gen. Mark Milley, left, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left, and retired Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, former commander of the U.S. Central Command, speak to the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, March 19, 2024.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)


Of particular concern to McKenzie was that the State Department, which was responsible for coordinating the evacuation of U.S. citizens and some Afghan allies, was behind the pace of the Defense Department, which was overseeing the withdrawal of U.S. troops and equipment from the country.

“‘Messy is a neat word for 13 dead American troops, a family of Kabul civilians killed in a botched retaliation (seven of them kids), and the brutal murders of many interpreters and other Afghans who worked with us, left to the mercy of the Taliban. But why fixate?” Mary Katharine Ham, podcast host and author, wrote.

Others took the opportunity to praise the president for the Afghanistan withdrawal. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said, “America is stronger because we are no longer mired in Afghanistan. Joe Biden made the tough, right call. Americans are done with unwinnable forever wars.”

“US military fatalities in Afghanistan war: last 3 Trump years- 50, first three Biden years- 13,” liberal journalist John Harwood wrote.

Fox News’ Michael Lee contributed to this report.

Hanna Panreck is an associate editor at Fox News.

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