On Monday, Aug. 30, the last U.S. flight out of Afghanistan left at 3:29 p.m. (ET). Defense and State Department teams were among the last to leave the country. While General Kenneth F. McKenzie, head of the U.S. Central Command, announced, “Every single U.S. service member is out of Afghanistan, I can say that with absolute certainty,” there are still hundreds of Americans and allies left behind. As Liberty Nation Managing Editor Mark Angelides wrote:
“Will this be a ‘mission accomplished’ moment contingent on the only mission being the evacuation of most American citizens, or will the administration concede that it has failed those who risked their lives to support the two-decade engagement?”
President Joe Biden addressed the nation on Aug. 31, congratulating the U.S. military and personnel who helped with the evacuation to end the 20-year war. He said that more than 120,000 people were taken to safety, adding “No nation has ever done anything like it in history.”
He called the operation “not a mission of war, but a mission of mercy,” executed during the extreme stress and pressure of being surrounded by terrorist soldiers. Biden once again emphasized that ISIS-K is “sworn enemies of the Taliban.” The commander-in-chief blamed first the Afghan government and then Donald Trump.
The president claimed it was assumed the 300,000-strong Afghan army would aid in the U.S. withdrawal while defending their country from a Taliban takeover. “That assumption … turned out not to be accurate.” By handing over the country to the Taliban, Biden said, Afghans put American citizens in increased risk.
Biden said Trump left him only two choices: leave Afghanistan or continue the war. He suggested that while his predecessor made an agreement with the Taliban, he did not broker a deal for the Taliban and the Afghan government to work together. The president then suggested Trump only bolstered the power of the Taliban, saying, “By the time I came to office, the Taliban was in the strongest position since 2001.”
However, the Taliban has agreed to help those who’d like to leave the country, the president continued. They have promised “freedom to travel, freedom to leave” in public comments. “We have leverage to make sure those commitments are met,” Biden assured.
Biden also had a message for the American people and anyone else who thinks the evacuation should have begun sooner. “I respectfully disagree,” he declared, claiming it still would have been dangerous and chaotic. And to those who think American troops should have remained in Afghanistan, the president said, it wasn’t possible. “[The] fact is, everything has changed” because Trump made an agreement with the Taliban.
Reminiscent of earlier press conferences, as well as other speeches from former presidents, Biden issued further warnings: “To ISIS-K: We are not done with you yet,” adding:
“The United States will never rest. We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down to the ends of the Earth and you will pay the price.”
And then, to reinforce to the American people that his actions were warranted, Biden said: “I give my word with all my heart that this is the right decision.”
Biden’s Unpopularity Grows
Representative Chip Roy (R-TX) sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Aug. 31 demanding Biden as well as two top officials in his administration “stand before God and the American people” for the “shamefully botched exit from Afghanistan” by testifying in front of Congress, Yahoo! News reported.
Roy wants to know how many Americans were left behind, why large amounts of military equipment were abandoned for the Taliban, why the United States deserted Bagram Air Base, why the Taliban was relied on for security at Kabul’s airport, and if the United States had left a database of names and addresses of Americans and allies. “While we don’t yet know the answer to these and other questions in full, we do know that the Taliban is now stronger than ever before,” Roy said. “And we know that the Taliban is flying around in a U.S. helicopter hanging someone who may well be one of our allies over Kabul.”
While praising the military for its efforts, the Republican added: “Notably, those efforts were supplemented by private citizens who stepped up when our own administration officials walked away.”
Roy called on several people to resign, including Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan:
“But, they should not be allowed to simply resign and slink off into the night. Nor should they get by with a rushed impeachment that might risk the solemnity deserved. Rather, they must stand before God and the American people, answer for their actions, and then be punished as appropriate through impeachment, court martial, or otherwise consistent with the law.”
Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) told Fox & Friends that the Afghanistan withdrawal was the “Mona Lisa of incompetence”:
“What we witnessed, and I mean, by we, I mean our world, is stunning incompetence, breathtaking incompetence. The Mona Lisa of incompetence. Now, there are good arguments to withdraw. There are good arguments to keep a limited force … in Afghanistan, but there are no good arguments for what the world has watched. I don’t know who President Biden had in charge … it looks like he put Gavin Newsom in charge.”
But it’s not just Republicans who are discouraged about the president and his actions. According to Morning Consult, since Aug. 14, “United States’ standing falls in 7 out of 14 countries.” Its findings included:
- In the United Kingdom, 42% hold favorable views of the United States and 39% hold unfavorable views.
- 77% of Chinese adults hold unfavorable views of the United States – up 5 points since Kabul fell.
- America’s reputation is still above water but fell significantly in Brazil, Italy, Japan, and Spain.
- One of the largest hits to the U.S. reputation came from residents of the United Kingdom – a country that contributed mightily to the American-led war effort for the past 20 years and has pushed back on the hasty withdrawal.
Will Biden’s “end of war” speech sway the needle on the approval scale? Once again, the president was more than 30 minutes late for the press conference and refused to take any questions while placing blame for the chaos of the withdrawal on the Afghan military and the former president.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.