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Kentucky's Senators Have Long Differed On Afghanistan. Their Hunches Are Being Tested.

AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will test the instincts of Kentucky's Republican heavyhitters in the U.S. Senate, who have come to represent two schools of thought on foreign policy in the party. One is already claiming vindication.

Sen. Mitch McConnell issued dire warnings Tuesday of a resurgent Taliban, regional instability, and a reconstituted al-Qaeda if the Biden administration stays committed to its withdrawal timeline. The GOP minority leader said he opposed the idea even under the previous administration.

"I said then this is a shortsighted decision, and sure enough... a reckless rush for the exits is becoming a global embarassment," the senator declared.

But for the time being, polls show strong public supportfor ending the two-decade-long conflict. It's unclear whether news of Taliban gains could eat away at that confidence.

Currently the Biden administration is still debating how best to protect Afghans who aided the U.S. war efforts and now risk reprisals from hardline Taliban. Sen. Rand Paul, a vocal campaigner for scaled back U.S. foreign intervention, argued that shuttling Afghan allies out would only speed the defeat of forces friendly to the U.S.

"I would encourage them rather to stay and fight," the libertarian-leaning senator said of thousands of more "Westernized" Afghan partners caught in the unfolding transition. "The future of Afghanistan could be a bright future, but they're going to have to fight for it." 

The Associated Press reports the government’s Refugee and Repatriations Ministry estimates Taliban encorachments have forced more than 5,600 Afghan families to flee their homes, mostly throughout the northern swath of the country.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.