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POLITICS: GOP presidential candidates slam Biden for Afghanistan withdrawal, 9/11 commemoration plans

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On the 22nd year after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., Republican presidential hopefuls took the occasion to criticize President Biden for the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, as well as the president’s decision to skip commemorations at the sites of the terrorist attacks. 

Biden will spend Monday in Alaska — following his trip to India for the G-20 summit and a stop in Hanoi, Vietnam Sunday — and the White House says he will take part in a memorial ceremony 9/11 with members of the military. Vice President Kamala Harris attended a ceremony in New York City on Monday, and first lady Jill Biden took part in a wreath laying ceremony at the Pentagon memorial.

However, the commemoration plans have sparked criticism from some Republican presidential contenders who say Biden should be at one of the sites of the 9/11 terror attacks.

“The president should absolutely be there,” former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told Fox News Digital in an interview. 

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Nikki Haley and Mike Pence spoke to Fox News Digital about the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. (Getty)

The importance of commemoration is both for the victims and their families, but also as a sign of unification for the country, according to Haley.

“We have to make sure we always remember those lives lost. And we always remember the unification that happened in our country afterwards… It’s a great message to send that, look, we’ve been strong and resilient before and we need to continue to be strong and resilient.”

Haley said America should never forget the lessons of 9/11, either — that America’s enemies can harm the homeland, and the country must remain vigilant.

“We should never be so arrogant to think that things can’t happen on our soil,” Haley said. “That’s why this war with Russia and Ukraine matters. It’s to make sure that we’re preventing war there. That’s why the Chinese infiltration is unacceptable. And the fact that no one is doing anything about the fact that Chinese are killing Americans every single day, buying up our farmland, stealing our intellectual property and preparing for war with us. No one can underestimate the threats that Iran has when they say ‘death to America,’ and that they mean them.”

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Fellow 2024 contender and former Vice President Mike Pence, who will be in Iowa on Monday, said he hopes Biden will honor the sacrifice of all those who served in the military in the wars that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

” I would urge President Biden, as I would any president, to honor the memory of the heroes forged that day and all those forged every day after on Sept. 11,” Pence said. However, he also criticized Biden for the deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 as the U.S.-backed government collapsed and the Taliban retook the capital of Kabul.

Taliban fighters stand behind a barbed fence with guns

After years of fighting the war on terror, the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

“That disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan dishonored the service and sacrifice of Americans in uniform who defended our freedom and have done their part to prevent another major terrorist event on American soil over the past two decades,” Pence said. “And I think on this Sept. 11, we ought to reflect on the gratitude that we feel for everyone who served, especially those paid the last full measure of devotion.

Like Haley, Pence spoke of the importance of America’s military strength to confront global threats. 

“We ought to remember that peace comes through strength and today the weak and feckless foreign policy of Joe Biden, the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, has only emboldened those who would bring harm to our country and even harm to our own soil. Now more than ever we need new leadership in the White House and leadership in the Republican Party that would build a military fitted to our times, that will stand with our allies and stand up to our enemies and I promise that if I’m President of the United States, I’ll do just that,” he said.

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Biden is the first president to mark the Sept. 11 occasion in Alaska, but he is not the first to commemorate the events away from the three sites of the original attack. In 2005, then-President George W. Bush commemorated the fourth anniversary of the attacks from the White House lawn. In 2015, then-President Obama marked the day with a moment of silence on the White House lawn and a visit to Fort Meade, Maryland. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who sits at a distant second place behind former President Trump in most early GOP primary polls, will be in New York City on Monday to meet with seven families of 9/11 victims. 

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The DeSantis campaign noted that the governor joined the Navy to serve his country following the 2001 attacks and emphasized that he is the only veteran running for president.

The White House did not reply to a request for comment. 

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.



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