The Biden administration is working hard on its public perception leading up to the one-year anniversary of the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to a new report from NBC News.
Sources from the National Security Council (NSC) told the media outlet that the administration’s goal is to avoid doing anything “stupid” before, during, and after the August anniversary.
NBC News noted that administration officials also say that Biden’s team is particularly concerned that if marking the occasion isn’t done properly, the American people will be reminded of what a disaster the withdrawal turned out to be, thus potentially hurting the president and his party as the midterm elections approach.
In August 2021, President Joe Biden began fully withdrawing troop presence in Afghanistan after the U.S. had spent nearly 20 years there. The decision has been blasted by critics as one of the worst moments of his presidency — particularly after 13 American service members were killed on August 26 during The Kabul Airlift, the name given to the mass evacuation of Americans and Afghan refugees. By the time the August 31 deadline passed, thousands of allies and Americans had been left behind by Biden’s administration.
The Taliban quickly took over the country after U.S. troops departed, despite prior assurances from the president that the Afghan government would hold. During the withdrawal, Biden said that the Islamic extremist group’s takeover was not anticipated to happen as quickly as it did. In the aftermath, the Taliban was left with billions of dollars worth of American equipment that had to be left behind.
Now, as the one-year mark approaches, officials across the administration have searched and filtered through calendars of all top officials to weed out any events or engagements that could be misconstrued as “tone deaf” in relation to the botched foreign policy strategy, according to NBC News.
Administration officials also noted that the Biden team is already preparing for Congressional investigations into the decision to end the war in Afghanistan.
This past February, Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, released the committee’s minority report on its investigation into the Afghanistan withdrawal. The report asserted that top levels of the Biden administration in the White House, Department of Defense (DoD), and Department of State were responsible for numerous failures during the operation that left hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans behind.
Biden announced the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in April and later self-imposed a timeline for operations to be completed by late August. According to the report, the administration “wasted” months before the NSC began working in earnest on plans to evacuate tens of thousands of U.S. citizens, military personnel, and Afghan allies from the country.
Before launching a noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO), “State did not officially reach out to regional partners until the middle of July, and DoD did not engage the Qatari government about using facilities there until the middle of August,” the report said. “Having wasted 115 days, the NSC did not conduct its first senior meeting to discuss the withdrawal until August 14 at 3:30 pm, just hours before Kabul fell, when evacuations became life or death for Americans, Afghans, and U.S. military personnel.”
Other reports indicate that U.S. military leaders had advised Biden to keep a small troop presence in the country to avoid catastrophe, but the president has maintained that nobody had told him that.
Tim Pearce contributed to this report.