Yes, it's time for another Trump explanation on how things would be better with him. And, as usual, it is time to take a swipe at the bumbling withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Trump claimed Putin had only invaded Ukraine because Joe Biden was now in power, and claimed America’s bumbling withdrawal from Afghanistan had given Moscow the confidence that it could get away with such actions.

I just took this as an example. Other similar claims are frequent, both in the US and internationally.

However the Doha accords, signed in February 2020, agreed to by no less than Trump himself, commits the US to withdraw in March 2021 while committing the Taliban to very little. Biden actually extended it a bit.

With the commitment and action on the obligations of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban in Part Two of this agreement, the United States, its allies, and the Coalition will execute the following:

  1. The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will complete withdrawal of all remaining forces from Afghanistan within the remaining nine and a half (9.5) months.
  2. The United States, its allies, and the Coalition will withdraw all their forces from remaining bases.

Given that Biden's administration only had 7 months to prep this withdrawal, what do Republicans suggest they would have done differently, in early 2021, had they been in charge?

Would they have remained? Added more troops? Getting out was a pretty strong intent from Trump (and not necessarily one I would disagree with). Had the Afghan National Army managed to fight better (overall, some units certainly were very brave) there would have been no collapse. But that failure isn't necessarily just to put at Biden's fault - again because this has been an ongoing failure. Things like insufficient Afghan air capability without contractors or corruption were a problem while Trump (and predecessors) were in power as well.

I understand the desire to make political hay out of blaming Biden. The August withdrawal was a bit of gong show, no doubt. But, strictly from a military viewpoint, what do those critics of the withdrawal process say should have been done instead? Has anyone articulated details, besides just general criticism?

  • As much as I would like to know the answer to this I think it is impossible to answer. The only thing we are hearing is that they would have done it better not how they would have done it better. The fact of this is because they don't have to actually have a plan to do it better in order to make those claims. Combined with the fact that a lot of info around all of this is classified we will likely never know the truth.
    – Joe W
    Apr 28, 2022 at 18:17
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    I am asking what any public pronouncements by Rep public figures have been, not about classified information which makes the question fully on target. Answering that no one has actually said anything of substance is an answer. This is not a question about what the military would or could have done, it is about what politicians and public figures say they would have done. Apr 28, 2022 at 18:20
  • And I am saying they have likely made no such announcements and even if they did we have no way to verify that it would have been actually better as we don't know enough to understand what went wrong. Honestly it is very easy to say you could have done something better without anything to back it up, I mean how many times did Trump say he had a great health care bill coming with no details?
    – Joe W
    Apr 28, 2022 at 18:29
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    even if they did we have no way to verify that it would have been actually better. Did I ask about whether it would have been better? I did not. I only asked what they said would have been better alternatives. Apr 28, 2022 at 18:31
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    @Rekesoft it is not asking for specific individuals. Trump? Trump is just an example of the criticism, not of proposed solution. Any prominent Republican that criticizes Biden can be cited, as long as they also indicate what they would have done instead. I am just curious - with all people going on in interviews about the "bumbling withdrawal", no interviewer thought to ask them what they would have done instead? Apr 29, 2022 at 10:10

2 Answers 2


There is not a single position by the Republican Party. With respect to foreign policy, the Republican Party can be effectively divided into 2 key components: neoconservatives and isolationists (America First). Additionally, the criticism must be grouped into 2 areas: policy and execution.


The Neoconservative position disagrees with both the policy and the execution. The neoconservative position is best described by John Bolton who was part of the George W Bush administration and the Donald Trump administration, where he was a key opponent of the Trump withdrawal policy. In his own Foreign Policy article, John Bolton illustrates the neoconservative view that the best policy action was to continue fighting in Afghanistan,

"A full withdrawal from Afghanistan is a costly blunder and failure of leadership."

Because policy of withdrawal began with the leader of their party, the criticism focuses on the opposing party continuing to support rather than the change the policy.

Isolationists (America First)

The Isolationists do not criticize the withdrawal policy because it is a key tenant on the America First concept that the nation building aspect of the war should be redirected domestically to the United States. The Trump administration created the withdrawal policy (Source: Trump Administration Archives).


Along with elements of the Democratic Party (although not as publicly as the Republicans, both the neoconservative and isolationists criticize the execution of the policy. The criticism focuses on the actual withdrawal and both factions have stated that they would have evacuated American citizens and US supporters in a more orderly way without the scenes of chaos.

Summary And Direct Answer

The neoconservative element of the GOP party would have discontinued the Trump policy and remained in Afghanistan. The isolationist (America First) segment does not criticize the withdrawal policy. Both sides claim they would have executed the withdrawal more thoughtfully and orderly. However, it is pure speculation whether there could have been any orderly withdrawal given the difficulty in removing a military from an active conflict.

  • I wonder how the GOP can form any coherent foreign policy if they have such directly opposing camps. I mean, you cannot stay in and out of Afghanistan at the same time. May 2, 2022 at 8:29
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    @Trilarion It's a conflict that is natural to a 2 party system. The democrats have a similar problem where there is an element similar to the neoconservatives (see the Iraq war votes and support for the Libyan intervention) and the progressives. The progressives and the isolationists effectively have the same goals for policy outcomes, but they differ on their reasons behind. Trump was an exception, but the foreign policy of both parties takes second priority to the institutions of the US government, which naturally lean towards the neoconservatives. May 2, 2022 at 8:59

Given that Biden's administration only had 7 months to prep this withdrawal, what do Republicans suggest they would have done differently, in early 2021, had they been in charge?

Top GOP hawks come out in full force against an Afghanistan withdrawal by September 11, April 15, 2021.

  • Sen Lindsey Graham, "... we're going to need a residual US force, a counterterrorism presence for years to come ..."

  • Sen. Mitch McConnell, "has consistently rejected a withdrawal from Afghanistan."

  • Rep. Liz Cheney was opposed to withdrawal "that is not based on conditions on the ground".

  • Sen. Jim Inhofe said "any withdrawal must be conditions-based".

  • Rep. Cynthia Lummis "wished the withdrawal could have taken place by the initial deadline of May 1".

  • You are suggesting that they said not to leave the country when they have said otherwise in the past.
    – Joe W
    May 2, 2022 at 12:22
  • @JoeW - I am quoting others, not suggesting anything. Specifically, the answer is to, "what do Republicans suggest they would have done differently". Any perceived suggesting should be attributed to those Republicans.
    – Rick Smith
    May 2, 2022 at 13:22
  • My point still stands, the question is asking what Republicans could have done better with the withdrawal and your answer is suggesting that they think the withdrawal itself was a mistake and it couldn't have been done better.
    – Joe W
    May 2, 2022 at 13:38
  • @JoeW - The quote by Lummis invalidates your point, since Lummis would have preferred an earlier withdrawal.
    – Rick Smith
    May 2, 2022 at 14:01
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    The reason I picked this is that it aligned better with my question: who said what, rather than a generic discussion about party tendencies and positioning. FWIW, note that conditions-based is wishful thinking rather than based on the actual situation: the Doha Accords did not give any such leeway and if conditions-based had been "something to that should have been done" then those conditions belonged in that accord, not in a re-interpretation, in 2021, of what Biden could do with Trump's accord. Not that Biden wasn't keen on pulling out as well, he's on the record advocating that. May 7, 2022 at 23:13

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