White House: Oh yeah, by the way, al-Qaeda's back in Afghanistan

No kidding. While the White House took a victory lap after the strike on al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, and understandably so — but it raised some uncomfortable questions. Joe Biden and his team pledged that their agreement with the Taliban would mean that AQ would never rise again to prominence in Afghanistan.

So what was he doing in Kabul, apparently openly and allegedly hobnobbing with the new regime? Peter Doocy asked Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, who tried to backpedal from Biden’s earlier and more categorical claims during the withdrawal from Afghanistan (via the Post Millennial):

“John, something you’ve just said is not consisted with what we were told last year,” Fox News’ Peter Doocy began. “You’re saying that you’ve always known there was a small number of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. President Biden said, ‘what interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al-Qaeda gone?'”

“Yeah, I mean, in a major way al-Qaeda was not… playing a major role in operations or resourcing or planning in Afghanistan,” said Kirby. “But, Peter, I know specifically because I was at a different podium a year ago. And we talked about the fact that al-Qaeda had a presence in Afghanistan, but its small, and not incredibly powerful or potent. And I think again, without getting into the numbers, we would still assess that to be the case.”

Doocy didn’t buy that explanation and pressed Kirby on why Biden gave Afghanistan back to the terrorist groups we’d been fighting the past twenty years:

Doocy said that the Taliban had been harboring “the world’s number one terrorist. How’s that not giving a country to a terrorist sympathizing group, if not giving them permission to have terrorists just sit on a balcony?”

Kirby responded by saying the wording of the question “makes it sound like we owned Afghanistan a year ago.”

Unfortunately for Biden and Kirby, Fox News isn’t the only outlet asking questions about Biden’s Afghanistan claims. Even the Washington Post now sounds a bit skeptical about Biden’s narrative of post-withdrawal security:

For President Biden, the killing of al-Qaeda’s top leader in a drone strike last weekend marked a welcome triumph as officials steel themselves for the first anniversary of the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

But the attack, which revealed to the public the presence of veteran militant Ayman al-Zawahiri in the heart of Taliban-controlled Kabul, injected a disturbing new element into the administration’s fraught dealings with Afghanistan in the post-American era.

Biden administration officials condemned Taliban leaders for providing a haven for the Egyptian extremist, who helped build al-Qaeda into a global terrorist network. Several of the officials said his installation in a villa a stone’s throw from Afghan government buildings flouted a 2020 U.S.-Taliban deal that provided the basis for the withdrawal of U.S. forces after two decades. …

The moves toward greater engagement suffered a setback this spring when Taliban leaders reversed their earlier pledges and prohibited girls from attending school beyond the sixth grade. In response, the Biden administration temporarily halted direct senior-level talks with the group.

Kirby’s trying and failing to explain away the inexplicable. Biden and his team want credit for taking out Zawahiri in Kabul — a legitimate tactical win — without accepting any accountability for the actions that not only allowed the head of AQ back into the capital of Afghanistan but that also allowed AQ’s Taliban allies and protectors to take over the country again. Getting Zawahiri was good, but the fact that he was operating openly in Kabul is a direct condemnation of the withdrawal Biden executed, especially in his decision to abandon Bagram and to cut off supplies to the Afghan military that we designed for reliance on American support.

Biden’s abandonment of Afghanistan has turned the country back over to the terrorists we’ve fought for the past twenty years. Kirby may not like hearing this, but it’s the obvious lesson from their strike on Zawahiri.