AP fact checks Biden on evacuation claims

AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

Katie Pavlich already dissected Biden’s speech about the withdrawal from Afghanistan where he described the catastrophe as an “extraordinary success,” apparently without a hint of irony. The President alluded to promising to get the United States out of Afghanistan and carrying through on that obligation. While they may be true, Biden also made a number of other promises in the preceding weeks and months, not all of which hold up under even the most casual scrutiny.

Now the Associated Press has gently fact-checked at least one Biden promise. Don’t you recall him saying something about not leaving Kabul until every American who wanted to get out of the country had been able to do so? Yeah… me too. But as the AP points out, that really didn’t happen.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday glossed over his broken promise to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan until the last Americans are out and offered the faint assurance — even with the last U.S. planes gone — that it’s never too late for U.S. citizens to leave.

“There is no deadline,” Biden said. But with its forces withdrawn, the U.S. is left with diplomatic persuasion instead of military muscle to get the Taliban extremists who’ve been fighting the U.S. for 20 years to give remaining Americans safe passage out.

I used the phrase “gently fact-checked” above for a reason. We continue to see a rather stark difference between the media’s treatment of the 45th and 46th presidents. Donald Trump “told lies” and delivered “misleading statements.” By contrast, Joe Biden “glosses over” some of his promises. But at least the media isn’t ignoring the speech entirely, right?

Getting down to the specifics, the AP reminds us that Biden said during his speech that “90% of Americans in Afghanistan who wanted to leave were able to leave.” But they then remind the President that 90% and 100% are not the same things.

THE FACTS: For the record, Biden vowed that he would get 100% of Americans out before withdrawing forces.

And his suggestions Tuesday that many of the remaining Americans are dual nationals who may be undecided about leaving do not reflect the full reality.

It’s good to see the fact-checkers going further than just the barebones numbers. Biden, and by extension Antony Blinken, have been playing word games with this subject for days. They’ve repeatedly implied that some of the remaining Americans who didn’t get out simply didn’t want to go because they have family in the country or for other unknown reasons. That is no doubt true of a few, but the AP reminds us that there’s a lot more to that story that was ignored during the speech.

We’re reminded that on Monday, Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters that he heard from Americans who were desperately trying to reach the airport gates but were either turned back at Taliban checkpoints or simply couldn’t get through the crowds. He further noted that there were no Americans on any of the last five flights of refugees leaving the airport.

Back on August 19th, during an interview with ABC News, Biden said unequivocally, “Americans understand we’re going to try and get it done before Aug. 31. If we don’t, we’ll determine at the time, who’s left And if there are American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out.”

It doesn’t get much more unambiguous than that. And yet that’s not at all what happened.

I rather wish that there was a way to fact-check the things that Biden didn’t say during his remarks as opposed to what he did say. We still need to know a lot more about all of the deal-making and glad-handing that was going on between the Biden administration and the Taliban during the final weeks. That information has been slowly leaking out, but there surely must be more. Deals were cut, with some of them subsequently being broken by the Taliban. And then we kept going back to the table for more. We don’t want to stir the hornets’ nest too much in Kabul until we get as many of those who remain behind enemy lines as possible back safe and sound. (Assuming a “deal” can be cut to do so.) But once that’s done, there needs to be a reckoning regarding all of these events.