Jake Tapper minced no words Sunday when he challenged Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the Biden administration’s rapid exit from Afghanistan.
“How did President Biden get this so wrong?” Tapper asked, pointing to a press conference six weeks earlier in which President Joe Biden had said a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was not “inevitable.” (RELATED: FLASHBACK: Biden Predicts Taliban Takeover In Afghanistan Is ‘Not Inevitable’)
“This is not just about the overall idea of leaving Afghanistan but hastily and ineptly. How did President Biden get this so wrong?” Tapper asked after introducing Blinken.
“Jake, first let’s put this in context,” Blinken pushed back, saying that the U.S. had long ago completed the initial objective of taking out Osama bin Laden. “We vastly diminished the threat posed by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to the U.S., to the point where it is not capable of conducting such an attack again from Afghanistan.”
“Again, the issue here is not just the withdrawal of U.S. forces. It’s how they were withdrawn,” Tapper continued, noting that former President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, had called the Biden administration’s abrupt exit “a handover to the Taliban” and said it left him with “grave questions” about Biden’s ability to lead.
“Does President Biden not bear the blame for this disastrous exit from Afghanistan?” Tapper asked.
Blinken did not directly answer the question. He said that the U.S. and others had worked to prepare the Afghan security forces to defend themselves. “And the fact is we’ve seen that force has been unable to defend the country. That has happened more quickly than we anticipated,” Blinken added.
Tapper continued to press, redirecting Blinken once more to the premise of his question, which was “how poorly this was done.”
“The idea that President Biden ordered 2500 service members out and now is sending up to 5,000 service members back in, does that not on its face show the exit was ineptly planned?” Tapper asked, noting that Biden had said just a month ago that it was “highly unlikely” that the Taliban would take over: “He was wrong.”
Blinken again pivoted back to the idea that having troops in Afghanistan indefinitely was an unsustainable solution. “It is simply not in the national interest,” he added.
“You keep changing the subject to whether we should be there forever. I’m talking about whether or not this exit was done properly,” Tapper insisted. “Taking out all the service members before those Americans and those Afghan translators could get out. That is what I’m talking about. Then you have to send people back in. That is the definition of oh, we shouldn’t have taken those troops out because now we have to send twice as many back in.”
“I think it shows we were prepared,” Blinken objected. “We had the forces on hand. And they were able to deploy very quickly again to make sure we could move out safely and securely as the situation on the ground changed.”
Tapper went on to ask Blinken whether he was prepared to guarantee that all remaining Americans in Afghanistan would be able to get out safely — and Blinken did not appear to have an answer.
“That is job number one. That is our number one mission,” Blinken replied.