President Joe Biden’s cabinet members struggled to answer questions about the withdrawal from Afghanistan on Sunday morning as anchors and guests pummeled his administration’s response.
Journalists, elected Republicans, and former Obama and Trump administration officials questioned both the administration’s withdrawal strategy and the decision to withdraw itself. At the same time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan contradicted themselves, each other, and the president.
Blinken started the morning off by contradicting Biden’s statements on terrorist threats in Afghanistan during an appearance on Fox News Sunday. Biden denied al-Qaida’s presence in Afghanistan during a Friday address, asking, “What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al Qa[i]da gone?”
However, following questioning from Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Blinken admitted that the terrorist organization still has a presence in-country, although he described it as “vastly diminished.”
The admission prompted Wallace to ask, “Does the president not know what’s going on?”
“This is an incredibly emotional time for many of us,” Blinken dodged.
Steve Hayes of The Dispatch echoed that question on Meet the Press, claiming that the president “seems to have lost track of reality.”
NEW: Pres. Biden “seems to have lost touch with reality,” says @stephenfhayes
“‘Al-Qaeda is gone from Afghanistan.’ That’s not true. ‘We haven’t been criticized by our allies.’ That’s not true. ‘Americans can make it to the airport without being harassed.’ That’s not true.” pic.twitter.com/sDcY9Co2Hu
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) August 22, 2021
“President Biden said three things in his remarks on Friday that were demonstrably, provably untrue,” Hayes said. “‘Al-Qaeda is gone from Afghanistan.’ That’s not true. ‘We haven’t been criticized by our allies.’ That’s not true. ‘Americans can make it to the airport without being harassed.’ That’s not true.” (RELATED: Biden Ignores Brits, Claims Allies Haven’t Questioned Withdrawal)
Republican Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney echoed the assessment of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley about a renewed terrorist threat during her segment on Meet the Press. Cheney blamed the Trump administration for negotiating with the Taliban, and Biden for offering “al-Qaida, ISIS, the Haqqani Network… an entire country as a sanctuary.”
Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse demanded a national security response from the Biden administration, slamming Blinken’s responses to Wallace as “spin mode.”
“We have a national security crisis. It’s ongoing,” he said. “We have a lot of Americans in harm’s way. We have a lot of people we made promises to beyond the wire of the airport, and you heard the president say just shameful falsehood after shameful falsehood this week. When he said Americans aren’t having trouble at the checkpoints, that’s not true. When they said they didn’t have intelligence that this was going to happen, that’s not true. When they said al-Qaida was dead, that’s not true. When they said they had contingency plans, that’s not true.”
“We need to have an urgent meeting of the National Security Council and the president’s DOD [Department of Defense] team to figure out if we should be retaking Bagram” Air Force Base, Sasse added.
Austin, however, would not even commit to rescuing all Americans and Special Immigrant Visa holders from Afghanistan or extending Biden’s troop withdrawal deadline past Aug. 31, a move the president himself promised on Wednesday during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.
“We’re going to continue to assess the situation and work as hard as we can to get as many people out as possible. As we approach that deadline, we’ll make a recommendation to the president,” Austin said.
He added that the U.S. military would “try our very best to get everybody, every American citizen who wants to get out, out.”