He was supposed to speak earlier this afternoon but our new Taliban masters have left him and his team in a jam and they’re scrambling to come up with a proper response. Agree to pull out by next Tuesday, before everyone’s out, and we look pitifully weak. Refuse to pull out and there’s no telling how messy things could get. The airport could turn into an Alamo for American troops pinned down there. American citizens trapped in Kabul would be at the mercy of jihadis, even more so than they are already.
The only way in which this ends “cleanly” is if we really do manage to get everyone out by August 31. Team Biden is engaged in lots of happy talk about that today, but members of Congress who’ve been briefed are more pessimistic.
And not just Republican hawks either.
Just asked Rep. @Liz_Cheney if she thinks it’s far to say that it appears as though the Taliban is dictating US/Biden policy in Afghanistan right now.
WH says US is on track to get all our people out by 8/31. Does she think that’s accurate?
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) August 24, 2021
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, after the briefing, still wants the Aug. 31 date pushed back: “I already sent a letter to the president asking for that time to be extended… I have not changed my opinion.”
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) August 24, 2021
“There is a broad bipartisan agreement within the United States Congress that we have to get American citizens out and we have to get our Afghan partners and allies out,” said centrist Dem Jason Crow, a veteran, after a briefing today. “That can’t be accomplished between now and the end of the month, so the date has to extend until we get that mission done.” Matt Zeller, whose group has been frantically trying to get Afghan friendlies out of the country for months, is calling for an end to the gaslighting by Biden:
"Let's be clear, the president has got to stop gaslighting the country." — Afghanistan veteran and former CIA analyst Matt Zeller pic.twitter.com/qvvWgNt2Tf
— Mediaite (@Mediaite) August 24, 2021
September 21st? There’s a report circulating from Fox News that, amazingly, some U.S. troops have already left:
BREAKING: The U.S. military has started withdrawing from Afghanistan reducing troop presence: U.S. officials
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) August 24, 2021
WaPo is confirming that, quoting a defense official as saying “some troops not critical to the evacuation mission have been removed already.”
Meanwhile, the White House comms team is sticking with happy talk. We’re on track to finish the mission by next Tuesday, Jen Psaki claimed in a statement this past hour:
Statement from @PressSec: President Biden told G-7 leaders "our mission in Kabul will end based on the achievement of our objectives. He confirmed we are currently on pace to finish by August 31st" pic.twitter.com/CzYcqDJqZe
— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) August 24, 2021
Note the wiggle room. The mission is over when we achieve our objectives, not necessarily on the 31st, and there are plans in place to extend it if need be. The core objective is to get American citizens out, obviously, but what about the Afghans with SIVs? And if there’s a plausible scenario in which we’re there past next Tuesday, why are we evacuating our troops already?
Crow, a former Army Ranger, made a point that’ll be echoed all over the country this week. If our military can’t be used to rescue Americans from jihadi savages, what do we have a military for?
Afghanistan veteran @RepJasonCrow (D-CO) pushes to extend August 31st deadline for Afghanistan withdrawal:
“If we aren’t willing to use the U.S. military to protect U.S. citizens and our partners and our friends, then what will we use our military for?” pic.twitter.com/MMXBbLSr0a
— The Recount (@therecount) August 24, 2021
Instead of asking whether we’re still going to be there after the 31st, maybe we should start asking if we’re still going to be there in 72 hours. This is ominous:
Brett Baier reporting that our military is now only taking American citizens at the Kabul airport. He adds that our military is expected to be out in 72 hours…
This is shocking. There are so many people still there… including Americans. pic.twitter.com/Uj6aR3y5qW
— Kassy Dillon (@KassyDillon) August 24, 2021
US embassy issues last alert for US citizens to leave afghanistan or they’re on their own, then recalls it 30 mins later.
— Richard Engel (@RichardEngel) August 24, 2021
And news is breaking as I write this that may explain why Biden’s remarks have been delayed:
Three sources tell me and @AlexThomp that the Taliban has now started halting people trying to get in through the airport gates. Not just Afghans but American citizens. Informal groups coordinating need to redirect people on the fly.
— Lara Seligman (@laraseligman) August 24, 2021
Ed joked this morning about the Taliban echoing Darth Vader’s line re: altering the deal further. Have they altered it? Supposedly they were letting Americans pass but holding Afghans back. Now they’re blocking off everyone.
Has the hostage phase of this fiasco begun?
We’re all talking today as though the evacuation will proceed for another week, but that’s not true. The civilian evacuation has to end sooner so that troops can prepare to depart. We have a few days left to get everyone out, not seven.
If the US sticks by the current 8/31 deadline, Jen Psaki says actual evacuations will have to stop before that date so there’s time to withdraw troops, machinery, weaponry, etc. “That would be correct. We would need to be time to wind down the presence,” she says.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) August 24, 2021
Stand by for video when Biden speaks during the next hour. This crisis is somehow still deepening.
Update: Well then.
US embassy in Afghanistan today sent out a “final message” for Americans wanting to leave Kabul with government help, per source. Tells them to bring husband or wife and children under 21 only. pic.twitter.com/zCc52MOFGU
— Catie Edmondson (@CatieEdmondson) August 24, 2021
That’s the message that Richard Engel says was later recalled.
Update: Jim Geraghty asks a question that’s been on my mind too. What’s with the odd White House formulation about evacuating every American “who wants to leave”? Is there a single American in Afghanistan who’s looking to stick it out in the caliphate and see how things go?
Based on the administration’s gaslighting — Politico’s words, not just mine! – it seems that the Biden team, having found themselves in a situation with no good options and terrified of a bigger fight with the Taliban, is prepared to claim, “we evacuated every American who wanted to get out, the ones who didn’t come to the airport by August 31 clearly wanted to stay.”
If they think this is a political disaster now, let them try that spin and see how things go for them. Especially since we’re likely to hear from any Americans left behind, whether via social media or satellite news interview, and they’ll make it abundantly clear that they’re not there by choice.
Update: There’s happy talk, there’s pollyannaish happy talk, and then there’s whatever the hell this is.
As thousands of Americans are stranded in Afghanistan, Jen Psaki says she wouldn’t describe the withdrawal as “anything but a success.” pic.twitter.com/lSxyJj8UDV
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) August 24, 2021
Update: Reality is setting in inside the Beltway that America is about to bug out and leave many men behind. And the bureaucracy isn’t happy about it.
“People are furious and disgusted,” said a former U.S. intelligence official who declined to be quoted by name. A defense official told NBC News he grew nauseous as he considered how many Afghan allies would be left behind.
At the CIA, “officers feel a real sense of obligation, moral obligation and personal obligation” to the Afghans they supported and trained, said former CIA Director John Brennan, an NBC News national security consultant…
The result, U.S. officials say, is that evacuations are likely to slow down considerably by Friday, in order to give the military enough time to effect an orderly withdrawal. That is not nearly enough time to evacuate all the Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who helped the 20-year American effort in the country, and it may not be enough time to remove every American, officials acknowledge.
Update: Not a lot of news here apart from the number evacuated: 70,000 out so far.
WATCH: President Biden gives update on Afghanistan as August 31 withdrawal deadline looms.
"I'm determined to ensure that we complete our mission, this mission" https://t.co/KprML8xlUw pic.twitter.com/qeby23UYl1
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 24, 2021
He took no questions at the end, of course.
Biden leaves the room following his latest remarks on Afghanistan without taking any questions. pic.twitter.com/97OJVFdXAS
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) August 24, 2021
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