Inside Biden’s defiant Afghanistan response

When images of desperate Afghans clinging to American warplanes began to emerge from Kabul on Tuesday morning, President Joe Biden admitted to his aides that he had no choice but to stop at Camp David to return to the White House

He even received calls from his political allies to talk to the Taliban about the fall of Afghanistan. His top aides began to openly admit that they were watching the collapse of the Afghan army, but they wanted the situation in Kabul to stabilize before Biden addressed the nation. His remarks, which described the capture of the Taliban as “unlikely” earlier this spring, added to the feelings of a commander-in-chief who was in a bad position as a guard.

During the briefings, the President asked his team how they could misjudge the timing of the Afghan army’s collapse. He also lamented that ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country on Sunday, did not follow a plan he set out at the Oval Office in June to prevent the Taliban from seizing major cities.

Biden remained in the president’s retreat over the weekend, sitting alone at a conference table and receiving screen or phone briefings. The consultants also met separately to discuss when and how to resolve the situation. When he returned to the White House on Monday afternoon, most of his aides thought he would at least spend the night there.

Inside Biden’s defiant Afghanistan response:

Again, as soon as Biden landed in Washington, word came that he would be staying at the mansion for a short time. After an 18-minute speech, Biden quickly fled to the mountains.

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As advisers worked hard to organize the president’s speech on Monday, there was more concern than criticism from Republicans that Biden’s own words and calculations had been so wrong in recent months. This episode highlights Biden’s two most distinctive political characteristics: a stubborn line of defense and a strong conviction that leaves little room for a second possibility in decision-making.

These features sparked a protest in the White House on Monday, but the spectacular images of chaos in Kabul – which the president called “disgusting” – remain irrefutable evidence of failure. What we will do next is up to Biden.

“Worse than Saigon” scenes in Kabul

There is a heated debate in the White House and national security agencies about how the disaster in Afghanistan came about. Officials, who have spent all their careers on domestic issues, are struggling to understand the sharp end of the 20-year conflict.

However, Biden’s remarks on Monday reflected his conversations with his advisers over the past 48 hours. Authorities knew the situation was possible – the Taliban crushed the civilian government in Kabul after the withdrawal of US forces – but they thought it was impossible.

Biden’s top aides spoke openly this week, acknowledging that they did not expect it to happen so soon.

Unanswered questions

During his many years in Washington, Biden believed in both foreign policy and political strategy. Assistants welcome conflicting opinions and healthy arguments, and say that they will most likely stop talking if they feel that their knowledge of a situation, especially international relations, is being questioned.

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This stubbornness was evident in the President’s speech in the Eastern Chamber, where he spent a lot of time defending the decision to withdraw American troops instead of accepting the miscalculations made by his administration. Although Biden briefly acknowledged that the Taliban’s advance and the collapse of the government were “faster than we expected,” he made it clear that his intention to end the war had not changed.

“I’m the president of the United States,” Biden said. “The money stays with me.”

Doubles

From the moment he entered the Oval Office seven months ago, Biden was determined to see what his three predecessors had not done: end America’s longest war. He surrounded himself with chief counselors who shared this basic belief; this raises the question, even among some Democrats, of not heeding warnings about the consequences of a quick withdrawal of their commitments.

“No one is against the decision to leave Afghanistan – almost no one,” a former national security official told CNN on Monday. “But it was their responsibility to make that decision, and they were surprised.”

Several White House advisers have worked for Biden for years, more than Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

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Credit@ CNN

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