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Chaos from Afghanistan withdrawal has divided Democrats

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
President Biden speaks about the situation in Afghanistan from the White House on August 16, 2021.Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — In his seven months as president, Joe Biden has largely kept his party — from Bernie Sanders to Joe Manchin — on the same page.

But that unity on policy and politics has appeared to unravel a bit after the Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover of Afghanistan.

While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised Biden after his speech on Monday (“The president is to be commended for his strong leadership and exceptional focus on bringing American military involvement in Afghanistan to an end”), other Democrats have been more biting in their appraisals.

“I am disappointed that the Biden administration clearly did not accurately assess the implications of a rapid U.S. withdrawal. We are now witnessing the horrifying results of many years of policy and intelligence failures,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said Tuesday, per NBC’s Julie Tsirkin.

“I am deeply concerned about the evolving humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, including Afghans that are being targeted by the Taliban,” said Senate Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., per NBC’s Frank Thorp.

Reed, who blamed Democratic and GOP administrations over the last 20 years for the failures in Afghanistan, added that his committee would be holding hearings on what went wrong.

“This certainly has not been a good day for America. The images we saw coming out of Afghanistan show a tremendous humanitarian crisis. This is going to hurt us, no question about it,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Member Ben Cardin, D-Md., said yesterday on MSNBC, though he made it clear the biggest U.S. mistake in Afghanistan was by former President George W. Bush.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan — before the weekend — was an immensely popular opinion supported by Democrats and even a majority of Republicans.

But now almost the entire GOP, including those like Donald Trump who helped orchestrate the withdrawal, have criticized Biden’s handling of the issue.

And some prominent Democrats in the foreign affairs/military community have, too.

Today’s major headlines on Afghanistan

NBC News: “Up to 15,000 Americans remain in Afghanistan after Taliban takeover.”

The Washington Post: “Taliban fighters at airport checkpoints shoot, harass Afghans seeking to board evacuation flights.”

The New York Times: “Intelligence Warned of Afghan Military Collapse, Despite Biden’s Assurances.”

NBC: “CIA warned of rapid Afghanistan collapse. So why did U.S. get it so wrong?”

More NBC: “Veterans of Afghan war express frustration, heartbreak watching Taliban seize power.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

Up to 15,000: How many U.S. citizens remain in Afghanistan as America tries to get its citizens and allies out of the country.

More than 1,900: The latest official death toll in Haiti from last week’s earthquake.

2: The number of U.S. officials in Germany that the Wall Street Journal is reporting are suffering from what’s nicknamed “Havana Syndrome.”

37,167,186: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 177,400 since yesterday morning.)

627,021: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,066 since yesterday morning).

357,894,995: The number of vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 602,938 since yesterday morning.)

50.9 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

61.8 percent: The share of all American adults at least 18 years of age who are fully vaccinated, per CDC.

Tweet of the day

Virginia Governor: McAuliffe responds to Youngkin’s crime ad

Well, that didn’t take long.

A day after Republican Glenn Youngkin’s campaign released a new TV ad hitting Democrat Terry McAuliffe on crime and linking him to Democratic groups that have called to “defund the police,” McAuliffe’s camp is out with this response ad that has testimonials from current and former Virginia law enforcement officials:

“Our job is to keep Virginia safe,” says one law enforcement official to camera.

“We know the truth about Terry McAuliffe’s record,” says another.

“When McAuliffe was governor, Virginia was the fourth-safest state in America,” says a third.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Read all of NBC’s expansive coverage of the situation in Afghanistan here, including stories about the mounting blame game over the Taliban’s quick rise, the coming American political fight over refugees, a story about a woman whose husband is trapped in Afghanistan and more.

Here’s some of the thinking behind the forthcoming recommendation for a Covid booster shot after eight months.

Early data is calling into question whether breakthrough Covid infections and hospitalizations, while still rare, are as rare as initially thought.

Politico is reporting that police reform negotiators in the Senate are taking changes to qualified immunity off of the table.

Former Rep. Doug Ose dropped his GOP gubernatorial bid in California after suffering a heart attack.

A progressive activist is jumping into the Ohio Senate Democratic primary to challenge Tim Ryan.