Biden: ‘I reject’ Army’s first-hand account of White House failures in Afghanistan evacuation
President Joe Biden has denied first-hand accounts from several US military leaders who were on the ground in Afghanistan during the mission’s final days in August.
The president told NBC’s Lester Holt that he “dismisses” narratives from military leaders who blame the administration for dragging its feet on the botched pullout. Thirteen military personnel have been killed and hundreds of Americans left behind in the chaotic emergency evacuation after the Taliban recaptured the war-torn country after 20 years of US occupation.
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“No. No. I was not told that,” Biden told Holt when asked if the claims were accurate, adding, “Yes, I am. I reject them. “
The Army report, which renewed scrutiny of the disastrous pullout, includes sworn testimony from military leaders who said the administration was slow to act, despite Biden repeatedly defending the administration against reviews.
“In my opinion, the [National Security Council] was not seriously planning an evacuation,” Marine Corps Brigadier General Farrell Sullivan told investigators.
He said an NSC feared an evacuation would suggest “we failed”, at a meeting on August 6, just over a week before the launch of a large-scale non-combat evacuation operation. ladder. Details of the report were discovered in a Freedom of Information Act request.
Sullivan, who had sought weeks earlier to prepare for an evacuation, though others in the administration feared it would hasten the collapse of the Afghan government, also said conversations with the embassy were “like pulling teeth” until early August.
The United States did not launch large-scale evacuation efforts until the Taliban could force then-President Ashraf Ghani to flee the country, as they quickly got rid of the Afghan army, which happened faster than expected by administration and defense officials. The US military was able to evacuate more than 100,000 people, although thousands of Americans and Afghans who worked with the US and who might be Taliban targets were left behind.
Like Sullivan’s experiences, Navy Rear Admiral Peter Vasely was “trying to get the ambassador to see the security threat for what it really was,” a military official said. At the height of the Taliban’s military push to overthrow the government, this person said, “The embassy had to position itself for the pullout, and the ambassador didn’t understand that.
Evacuation efforts were chaotic at first, although the military was able to streamline the process, but on one of the first days Afghans stormed the runway as a plane took off, and some desperately tried to hang on to the outside of the plane. . An Air Force investigation is still ongoing into human remains found in the wheel well of one of these planes.
The dim lights of the pullout came more than a week later with the Kabul airport bombing, which killed an estimated 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. service members, and an errant drone strike that targeted a civilian the DOD believed at the time to pose an imminent threat to the evacuating troops.
Another DOD investigation, this one focusing specifically on the Aug. 26 bombing, concluded earlier this week. The biggest discovery was that the suicide bomber, who was a member of ISIS-K, the Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State, acted alone, which corrected previous reports that other militants had opened fire on the troops the day after the explosion.
DOD officials said the ball bearings inside the explosive device left wounds that looked like gunshots and reports of the gunshots were attributed to service members trying to restore the order by firing warning shots.
A few days after the bombing, the United States launched an airstrike targeting Zemari Ahmadi, an aid worker who had no connection to terrorism. Ahmadi was killed along with nine other civilians, including his children. The military monitored Ahmadi for eight hours before giving the go-ahead for the strike, and his actions that day have worried US officials, although a military investigation that ended last year found that confirmation bias on the information had played a large role in the error.
“One of the recommendations that goes to this issue, to the heart of this issue, is to team red, if you want, to break through the confirmation bias by someone who is going, you can interpret the information in a way which leads you to believe more that it is the vehicle of interest, but you can also interpret it as benign,” US Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami D. Said told reporters. , in November. “There were instances where intelligence was correlated with real-time information, or what was being observed, in a way that we might have had a chance to inject and say, ‘What what else could it be? I know you could interpret it that way, but what about this?”
The investigator concluded that there was no illegality with the strike, and Austin approved it. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby announced Dec. 13 that no military personnel would be punished for the botched strike.
Despite the questions raised by the bombing, the botched drone strike and the first-hand accounts of dragging bureaucrats, Biden argues that many of these situations should not be blamed on his administration.
“Look, there’s no good time to come out, but if we hadn’t come out, they recognized that we should have handed over a lot more troops,” Biden told Holt. “We should increase the number of troops dramatically, and we’re back in this war of attrition, and there was no way we were ever going to unite… Afghanistan.”
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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced plans late last month to further emphasize the importance of preventing civilian casualties, including the immediate establishment of a Civil Defense Center. Two investigations are also underway into US drone strikes in Syria, one in March 2019 that killed 80 people and another last December where civilian casualties were also reported.
Biden urged Americans in Ukraine to leave immediately, before a possible Russian invasion, to avoid a situation similar to Afghanistan where Americans turn to the military for help in case of clashes.