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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Footage from Afghanistan is already starting to pop up in Republican political ads, and GOP consultants say it's going to provide TV-ready ammo for attacks heading into the midterms.

Why it matters: The haphazard U.S. withdrawal is the first major policy vulnerability presented by the Biden administration. The opposition expects it to play heavily in 2022 messaging — and even in the 2024 presidential contest.

  • Afghanistan marks the first major U.S. military withdrawal of the digital era. So, while a few images from Saigon in 1975 are indelibly seared in the American consciousness, the ubiquity of cellphone cameras now means tons more first-hand footage.
  • Those harrowing images — of people falling from airplanes and babies being passed over barbed-wire barricades — are a political-persuasion goldmine.
  • The Democrats remind it was a Republican — George W. Bush — who started the war, and two Republicans — Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo — who set in motion the final withdrawal and negotiated its terms with the Taliban.

What's new: The America First Policy Institute, a group staffed by high-level Trump administration alumni, has already started running ads using some of the chaotic footage.

  • The digital spot features Taliban fighters mobilizing in seized U.S. military equipment and occupying the presidential palace in Kabul. (It also uses one clip from 2007 of U.S. troops training Afghan army soldiers.)
  • Another GOP-aligned group, Citizens United, is running similar ads. They make the Saigon comparison explicit, juxtaposing images of U.S. helicopters airlifting personnel out of diplomatic facilities.
  • The ads from both groups contrast images and video from Kabul with Biden remarks last month predicting an orderly U.S. exit.

The big picture: The images and videos coming out of Kabul are "certainly film-ready when we get to the voter-contact stage this cycle," said veteran GOP operative Jeff Roe. His firm, Axiom Strategies, is advising numerous GOP candidates in competitive races this cycle.

  • The clips will feed a Republican line of Biden administration ineptitude, Roe said. So even years down the line, when Afghanistan is no longer front-page news, "this is gonna be evergreen because it's a gateway drug to political incompetence."
  • Roe compared it to George W. Bush's infamous speech below a "Mission Accomplished" banner in Iraq weeks after the U.S. invasion in 2003.
  • "There weren't a lot of Republican congressmen or senators defeated because of a 'Mission Accomplished' banner. But ... everybody that voted for it had to have that banner wrapped around their neck, and the same thing is gonna happen here."

Go deeper

Updated Nov 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Post-Trump GOP doctrine

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Republicans — reshaped, controlled and defined by Donald Trump since 2015 — are slowly but surely charting a post-Trump ideology and platform.

Why it matters: Other than conservative courts, toughness on immigration and hostility toward modern liberalism, it's been impossible to specify the core and connective ideology of Republicans under Trump.  

Updated 10 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Swastikas found outside Union Station in D.C.

People walk through Union Station on Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Drawings of swastikas appeared etched around the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

Driving the news: "An investigation is underway with Amtrak Police and the Metropolitan Police Department after swastikas were reported on the exterior of Washington Union Station on Friday," Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in a statement to Axios.