tirsdag 17. august 2021

Inside Biden's defiant Afghanistan response

By the time images of desperate Afghans clinging to American warplanes began emerging from Kabul on Monday morning, President Joe Biden had conceded to aides he had little choice but to interrupt his stay at Camp David to return to the White House. He had been facing calls, even from his political allies, to speak out on the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. His top aides had begun publicly admitting they were caught off guard by the speed with which the Afghan military would collapse but wanted the situation in Kabul to stabilize before Biden addressed the nation. And his own words from earlier this summer describing a Taliban takeover as "unlikely" were aggravating the sense of a commander-in-chief caught badly off guard.

During briefings, the President quizzed his team about how they could have misjudged the time it would take for the Afghan army to collapse, according to people familiar with the matter. He has also voiced dismay at the failure of Ashraf Ghani, the ousted Afghan president who fled the country on Sunday, to adhere to a plan he laid out in the Oval Office in June to prevent the Taliban from taking over major cities.

Throughout the weekend, Biden had remained at the presidential retreat, receiving briefings on screens or over the phone while sitting alone at conference table. Advisers huddled separately to discuss when and how he should address the situation. When he returned to the White House midday Monday, many of his aides assumed he would at least spend the night.