White House defends Biden rejection of Army report critical of Afghan withdrawal

White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended President Biden on Friday, one day after he said he rejected a report by military investigators which criticized his administration’s handling of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Army probe, which was first reported by the Washington Post, concluded that the White House was too late in responding to the Taliban’s final offensive and resisted efforts to prepare an evacuation of US Embassy staffers and Afghan allies in the weeks before Kabul fell.

Biden was pressed on its findings during a taped interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt on Thursday

“You were told that the US — administration officials — were prepared? They knew it was time to get out?” Holt asked in a segment of the interview that will be aired in full during NBC’s Super Bowl coverage.

“What I was told — no one told me that — look, there was no good time to get out,” Biden said. “But if we had not gotten out, they acknowledged that we would have had to put a hell of a lot more troops back in.”

An army report criticized the White House for not being prepared for a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
US Air Forces Europe-Africa
President Biden said he rejects the Army report and that there was no “good time” to withdraw from Afghanistan.

“Just want to clarify, are you rejecting the conclusions or the accounts that are in this Army report?” Holt later asked.

“Yes I am,” Biden responded.

“So they’re not true?” Holt followed up.

“I’m rejecting them,” the president said.

During Friday’s daily press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed that Biden was rejecting “the notion that there weren’t a range of preparations done in advance over the course of last spring and last summer.”

“He came into office without any plan — well, there was a deadline — but without any plan for departure or for helping the Afghans who had served by our side for 20 years,” the press secretary insisted. “We put in place … beginning last spring, a plan a range of contingency plans should we need to bring American citizens out or bring Afghans out.”

Psaki also claimed that Biden “always raised the question of whether we needed to evacuate our embassy and people or Americans who were serving in our embassy there. That decision was always posed to the group at the table. That decision was not made until Aug. 12,” three days before the Taliban took over Kabul.

The report indicated that there was opposition among US diplomats to reducing their footprint at the embassy weeks before the Western-backed Afghan government fell. In particular, acting US Ambassador Ross Wilson insisted on being given two weeks’ lead time to evacuate the embassy, ​​with a small group of diplomats allowed to remain at Kabul’s international airport.

Jen Psaki
Psaki said President Biden was rejecting the notion that there wasn’t advanced planning for the withdrawal.

Only on Aug. 12, with the Taliban closing in, did Secretary of State Antony Blinken and White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan tell Wilson to hasten his plans for departure, the report says.

The reported episode sums up the haphazard nature of the evacuation, after which Navy Rear Adm. Peter Vasely — the top US commander on the ground during the operation — complained to investigators that service members would have been “much better prepared to conduct a more orderly” pullout “if policymakers had paid attention to the indicators of what was happening on the ground .”

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