President Biden’s knee-jerk reaction to news of a deadly suicide bombing amid the US evacuation from Afghanistan has come to light.
During a briefing on Afghanistan on August 26, the head of the US Central Command, General Frank McKenzie, turned pale when handed him a piece of paper. He told the meeting, to which he videotaped, that a bomb exploded near Hamid Karzai Airport – four service members were already dead, three nearly dead, dozens more injured.
There were hiccups all over the room and Biden winced before falling silent for a long pause. “The worst that can happen has happened,” the president said after breaking the silence, meeting attendees told The New York Times.
The death toll ultimately rose to 13 US servicemen and more than 170 Afghans.
The fateful event has since tainted the Biden administration’s record and defined the frenzied pullout that drew criticism from both sides. As a result of the attack, which the terrorist group ISIS-K later claimed, the United States carried out a retaliatory drone strike, which it said initially killed a terrorist, but later admitted to killing an innocent family of 10, including children.
The president had insisted on moving forward with the withdrawal of the 2,500 remaining troops in Afghanistan and ending the 20-year war. Later, as critics poured in, Biden blamed the Trump-era peace deal with the Taliban, where his successor had promised to send troops by May.
On August 31, Biden called the withdrawal a “tremendous success.”
On August 31, Biden called the withdrawal “extraordinary success” a challenge.
Afghan man pours water into mouth of another injured in suicide bombing
Hundreds of people were seriously injured in the attack
The 13 US soldiers who were killed helped the Americans and their allies escape as the Taliban took control
The commander-in-chief said the operation could not have been conducted in a “more orderly manner” and “respectfully disagrees” with critics who said he should have started the evacuation earlier to avoid chaos .
The president also saluted the 120,000 people brought to safety on “one of the largest airlifts in history,” pledged to continue working to bring out the Afghan allies and said the State Department had contacted Americans stranded 19 times since March to ask if they wanted to leave.
‘Let me be clear. The departure on August 31 is not due to an arbitrary deadline. It was designed to save American lives, ”Biden said.
Meanwhile, McKenzie and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, have both strayed from Biden’s strategy.
Both said they advised Biden to leave a small number of troops in Afghanistan to avoid Taliban control, but the commander-in-chief insisted all must be withdrawn.
McKenzie said he recommended 2,500 troops stay in Afghanistan. He said he was confident Biden had heard his advice, after the president told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he could not recall anyone advising him to leave troops in the country.
“I recommended that we keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan … I also believe that the withdrawal of these forces would inevitably lead to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and, ultimately, the Afghan government. ”
“I was present when this discussion took place and I have no doubts that the President heard all the recommendations and listened to them very carefully.”
But the Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin said he believed leaving those last 2,500 would have led to a fight with the Taliban that would lead to a greater troop increase.
“If you were to stay there at a position of 2,500 people, you would definitely be in conflict with the Taliban and you will have to strengthen yourself.”
Milley said her “assessment was, in the fall of , and has remained constant throughout, that we should maintain a steady state of 2,500 [troops], and it could bounce back to maybe 3,500, something like that, in order to move to a negotiated closed solution.
“My analysis was that an accelerated withdrawal without fulfilling the specific and necessary conditions risked losing the substantial gains made in Afghanistan, damaging the credibility of the United States around the world and could precipitate a general collapse of the Afghan government, resulting in a full Taliban control or a general civil war, ”Milley said.
He declined to say exactly what he told the president.
But, he added, on August 25, 10 days after Kabul fell to the Taliban when Biden ordered a reassessment of military strategy, key commanders then agreed on the need to move forward. the front with the withdrawal to avoid war.
Suicide bombing outside the gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport in August killed more than 170, including 11 Marines, one army soldier and one navy
Most of the Americans who died in the August 26 attack were just starting their service careers, aged 20 to 33. Darin Hoover, 31; Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22; Cpl. Daegan Page, 23; Cpl. Humberto Sanchez, 22; Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20; Cpl. David Espinoza, 20; Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20; Cpl. Dylan Merola, 20; Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20 years old; Sgt. Nicole Gee, 23; Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25; Navy Hospitalman Maxton Soviak, 22; and the army sergeant major. Ryan Knauss, 23.
Earlier this month, the Senate unanimously passed a bill posthumously awarding the Congressional Gold Medal after the House unanimously did the same.
There were a total of 2,352 American soldiers killed in the two-decade Afghan war known as Operation Enduring Freedom, fewer than the 66,000 to 69,999 Afghan soldiers who lost life during the war.