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How Florida lawmakers reacted to Taliban takeover in Afghanistan

Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott point fingers at Biden while Rep. Val Demings and Democrats are mostly silent.
Taliban fighters stand guard in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday.
Taliban fighters stand guard in front of the Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday. [ RAHMAT GUL | AP ]
Published Aug. 16
Updated Aug. 16

With Afghanistan in turmoil and growing fears of a humanitarian crisis, Florida’s two U.S. senators joined other Republicans on Monday in pointing blame at President Joe Biden for the Taliban’s swift return to power.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, accused Biden of failing to heed the warnings of the intelligence community when the administration pulled ground troops out of Afghanistan in May. On Twitter, Rubio said the images of desperate Afghani men and women attempting to flee Kabul as the Taliban moved into the capital were predictable but added, “What comes next is far worse, the return & resurgence of Al Qaeda.”

“The incompetent Biden Administration has no plan to prevent this,” Rubio said, “we should have zero trust they ever will.”

Biden is cutting short a planned stay at Camp David and is scheduled to address the American public at 3:45 p.m. from the White House.

Going further than Rubio, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott on Twitter questioned Biden’s capabilities to lead the country, adding: “Has time come to exercise the provisions of the 25th Amendment?” Scott is referring to Section 4 of the 25th Amendment related to succession of power that outlines how a president could be removed from office. It has never been invoked.

Scott also called for a congressional investigation into the country’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. That drawdown of troops was instigated by President Donald Trump in 2020, who had made ending the Afghanistan War a top foreign policy objective dating back to his candidacy for president.

An agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban required U.S. troops to leave the country by May of this year. Biden stuck with that timeline, insisting that after 20 years of American involvement, the time had come for Afghanistan security forces and political leaders to stand on their own.

Those forces crumbled quickly as the Taliban made advances in recent weeks and reinstalled in power, elevating fears of a return to the brutal rule that preceded U.S. military intervention in 2001.

Florida Democrats have so far made few public statements about the events in Afghanistan, including U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who is running to challenge Rubio for his Senate seat in 2022.

Demings, from Orlando, has focused on another international tragedy, the recent earthquake off the shore of Haiti that has claimed at least 1,300 lives, and has not issued a public statement about Afghanistan. Demings called the early reports from Haiti “devastating.”

In a statement Monday afternoon, Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat who is running for governor, wrote, “Ultimately, the Afghans must determine their future; we can no longer ask another generation of Americans to fight and die in an endless war.”

“Our attention now must be on assisting everyone who helped US forces along the way get out of the country safely,” he said.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, has not weighed in.

Trump’s decision to pull troops from Afghanistan was met with skepticism at the time from Republicans and Democrats alike. One of the strongest defenders of that policy, though, was Rep. Matt Gaetz, who agreed with Trump that it was time to end the country’s so-called forever wars.

Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican, on Sunday posted on Twitter that Afghanistan is “not a country. Never was.”

“The big lie was that more US blood & treasure could have ever made a difference,” he wrote.