News and Commentary

Biden Administration Officials Blaming Each Other For Afghanistan Debacle
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the situation in Afghanistan in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, DC.
Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Just a few days into the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Biden administration is already playing the blame game.

CNN reported that the Department of Defense and State Department are blaming each other and the Intelligence Community for the worsening situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has taken over the country within a matter of days.

“Military officials have said that for weeks they urged the State Department to move faster in evacuating its diplomatic personnel. State Department officials have said they were operating based on intelligence assessments that suggested they had more time, but intelligence officials insist that they had long reported the possibility of a rapid Taliban takeover,” CNN reported.

The outlet added, however, that an “intelligence assessment produced within the last month assessed that the Taliban were pursuing a total military victory in Afghanistan, a source familiar with the intelligence said, despite ostensibly negotiating for peace in Doha and even as the administration continued to express confidence in those talks.”

The White House’s messaging on Afghanistan has been incoherent. On July 8, President Joe Biden gave a press conference saying the Afghan government was prepared to continue and that we wouldn’t see mass evacuations like the end of the Vietnam War. That turned out to not be true.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the Biden administration knew three weeks ago that Afghanistan was in danger of rapidly falling to the Taliban.

“Classified assessments by American spy agencies over the summer painted an increasingly grim picture of the prospect of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and warned of the rapid collapse of the Afghan military, even as President Biden and his advisers said publicly that was unlikely to happen as quickly, according to current and former American government officials,” the outlet reported. “By July, many intelligence reports grew more pessimistic, questioning whether any Afghan security forces would muster serious resistance and whether the government could hold on in Kabul, the capital. President Biden said on July 8 that the Afghan government was unlikely to fall and that there would be no chaotic evacuations of Americans similar to the end of the Vietnam War.”

This reporting contradicts some White House officials, who told CNN “that Biden got bad advice from some of his top military and intelligence advisers.”

“One White House official pointed to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley’s comments from three weeks ago, when he suggested the Afghan forces had the capacity to fight for and defend their country, and that a Taliban takeover was not a foregone conclusion,” CNN reported.

Military officials, however, told CNN they warned the State Department for weeks that it needed to start bringing home embassy employees. The embassy had withdrawn some personnel over the past few months, but only quickened its pace last week as the Taliban started taking over Afghanistan.

Others in the administration, including Biden himself, blamed the Afghan government for the situation, saying they didn’t put up much of a fight against the Taliban once the U.S. withdrawal became imminent.

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