Biden rejects disastrous US Army report on Afghan exit, but stops short of denying it

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Rejecting is not quite the same as denying, yet President Biden opted to former phrasing over the latter when asked about a critical report from the U.S. Army on the Afghanistan withdrawal debacle accusing the Biden administration officials of failing to grasp the situation on the ground and consequently being slow to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.

Biden was asked about the report in an interview Thursday with NBC’s Lester Holt, and the commander in chief did not offer a very reassuring response.

“On the subject of American citizens, I have to draw your attention to that Army report, an investigative report that’s come out about the lead up to the withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Hold said. “It interviewed many military officials and officers, who said the administration ignored the handwriting on the wall. Another describes trying to get folks in the embassy ready to evacuate, encountering people who are essentially in denial of the situation. Does any of that ring true to you?”

“No… No, that’s not what I was told,” the president replied.

Holt pressed, “You were told that U.S. administration officials were prepared, they knew it was time to get out?”

“No, what I was told. No one told me that — look, there was no good time to get out,” Biden said. “If we had not gotten out, they acknowledged that we would have had to put a hell of a lot more troops back in. It wasn’t just 2000, 4000. We would have to significantly increase the number of troops and we’re back in this war of attrition and, and there was no way we were ever going to unite Ukraine, I mean, excuse me, Iraq–Afghanistan. No way that was going to happen. And so this is a much wiser thing to do.”

This led to the following exchange — take note of Biden’s phrasing after being asked if the report was not true:

HOLT: “I just want to clarify, are you rejecting the conclusions or the accounts that are in this army report?”

BIDEN: “Yes I am.”

HOLT: “They are not true?”

BIDEN: “I am rejecting them.”

The Washington Post obtained a 2,000 page Army investigative report through a Freedom of Information Act request, offering the following summary:

Senior White House and State Department officials failed to grasp the Taliban’s steady advance on Afghanistan’s capital and resisted efforts by U.S. military leaders to prepare the evacuation of embassy personnel and Afghan allies weeks before Kabul’s fall, placing American troops ordered to carry out the withdrawal in greater danger, according to sworn testimony from multiple commanders involved in the operation. […]

Military personnel would have been “much better prepared to conduct a more orderly” evacuation, Navy Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, the top U.S. commander on the ground during the operation, told Army investigators, “if policymakers had paid attention to the indicators of what was happening on the ground.”

 

As the newspaper noted, the investigation was prompted by the Aug. 26 suicide bombing just outside Hamid Karzai International Airport that killed 13 U.S. service members and an estimated 170 Afghan civilians. The incident marked the lowest of many low points for Biden in his first year in office.

Pentagon’s chief spokesman John Kirby said in response to questions about the report that while the airlift was a “historic achievement,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin acknowledged it was “not perfect,” according to the Post.

“We are committed to, and are intensely engaged in, an ongoing review of our efforts during the evacuation, the assessments and strategy during the conflict, and the planning in the months before the end of the war,” Kirby said. “We will take those lessons learned, and apply them, as we always do, clearly and professionally.”

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