Tapper DESTROYS Sec. Blinken on Biden’s ‘Ineptly Planned’ Afghan Withdrawal

The president of Afghanistan has reportedly fled the country, the United States flag was taken down at the embassy and secreted away with the ambassador, and throngs of people were seen on video desperately trying to climb into the back of American military cargo planes before takeoff with reports the airport was under fire from the Taliban. That’s the state President Biden left Afghanistan in and CNN’s Jake Tapper was out to hold him to account during Sunday’s State of the Union, thrashing Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the process.

Tapper came out of the gates on fire, calling out Biden and Blinken for pulling out of Afghanistan so “hastily and ineptly” and demanded to know how they got this “so wrong”:

Secretary Blinken, as you know, the Taliban has closed in on Kabul. We are evacuating the embassy, burning documents, Biden increased troops deploying to the country twice in three days just to rescue those there. This is not just about the overall idea of leaving Afghanistan. This is about leaving hastily and ineptly. Secretary Blinken, how did President Biden get this so wrong?

Blinken tried to blame former President Trump for Biden’s disastrous leadership, suggesting they were in a bind because of the original May 1 deadline. But Tapper rightly called him out for being misleading. “You did blow through that deadline. We did have troops there after May 1. But again, the issue here is not just the withdrawal of U.S. forces. It’s how they were withdrawn. The rapidity, the hastiness,” he said.

Then, in a stunning display of seeming contempt for Biden, Tapper quoted a former ambassador to Afghanistan under President Obama who questions Biden’s ability to lead America at all:

President Obama’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, he called the way this was done, quote, “a handover to the Taliban” and, quote, “we have hung them out to dry” about the Afghan people. Crocker continued, quote, “I’m left with some grave questions in my mind about Biden’s ability to lead our nation as commander-in-chief. To have read this so wrong or even worse to have understood what was likely to happen and not care,” unquote.

Does President Biden not bear the blame for this disastrous exit from Afghanistan,” he asked Blinken.

After taking a shot at the cowardly Afghan military who needed American airpower and intelligence to “stiffens their spine,” Tapper pointed out how ridiculous it was that after Biden withdrew 2,500 troops, he needed to send in 5,000 to make sure Americans and Afghan allies were able to escape. “Why not have the troops in there and let that happen first before taking them out,” he questioned the obvious. “Does that not on its face show the exit was ineptly planned?”

“And, again – Look, you told me a few months ago on this program that you thought it was entirely likely the Taliban would be taking over the country. But President Biden just last month, quote, ‘the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.’ He was wrong,” Tapper sniped.

Blinken was squiring and breaking under the pressure. He kept trying to suggest that keeping troops in the country to help evacuate Americans beforehand was akin to wanting a forever war. Tapper wasn’t having it and scolded his guest for making that assertion:

You keep changing the subject to whether or not we should be there forever. And I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about whether or not this exit was done properly. Taking out all the service members before those Americans and those Afghan translators could get out. That’s what I’m talking about. And then you have to send people back in. That shows – that’s the definition of, “Oh, we shouldn’t have taken those troops out because now we have to send twice as many back in.”

At one point, Tapper started shouting at Blinken about America leaving its allies in the country to die by acting too late to get them out. “Why now? Why are you just doing that now? On this show, we’ve been talking for months about the need to evacuate these thousands of Afghan translators and others who helped U.S. service members during the war,” he indignantly proclaimed.

The pair had a lengthy back and forth that featured Tapper pressing Blinken on if Biden administration was trying to make concessions to the Taliban and if he’d promise to get every American out safely (Click “expand”):

TAPPER: Let me just ask you is the Biden administration, right now, offering the Taliban anything in exchange for a promise of safe passage for Americans and others out of Afghanistan?

BLINKEN: No. We haven’t asked the Taliban for anything. We’ve told the Taliban that if they interfere with our personnel, with our operations, as we’re proceeding with this drawdown, there will be a swift and decisive response. That’s what we’ve told them.

TAPPER: How many Americans are left in Kabul do you think, and how long will it take to get them out? Can you promise that all Americans will get out safely?

The secretary of state refused to make that promise.

The transcript is below, click “expand” to read:

CNN’s State of the Union
August 15, 2021
12:16:05 a.m. Eastern

JAKE TAPPER: Secretary Blinken, as you know, the Taliban has closed in on Kabul. We are evacuating the embassy, burning documents, Biden increased troops deploying to the country twice in three days just to rescue those there. This is not just about the overall idea of leaving Afghanistan. This is about leaving hastily and ineptly. Secretary Blinken, how did President Biden get this so wrong?

SEC. STATE ANTONY BLINKEN: Jake, first let’s put this in context. And as we’ve discussed before, we were in Afghanistan for one overriding purpose, to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11. That’s why we went there 20 years ago. And over the 20 years we brought bin Laden to justice. We vastly diminished the threat posed by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan to the United States, to the point where it is not capable of conducting such an attack again from Afghanistan.

(…)

And the idea that the status quo could have been maintained by keeping our forces there, I think, is simply wrong. The fact of the matter is, had the president decided to keep forces in Afghanistan beyond May 1, attacks would have resumed on our forces. The Taliban had not been attacking our forces or NATO during the period from which the agreement was reached to May 1. The offensive you are seeing across the country now to take the provincial capitals would have commenced. And we would have been back at war with the Taliban.

(…)

TAPPER: You cited the May 1 deadline negotiated by the Trump administration. You did blow through that deadline. We did have troops there after May 1. But again, the issue here is not just the withdrawal of U.S. forces. It’s how they were withdrawn. The rapidity, the hastiness.

President Obama’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, he called the way this was done, quote, “a handover to the Taliban” and, quote, “we have hung them out to dry” about the Afghan people. Crocker continued, quote, “I’m left with some grave questions in my mind about Biden’s ability to lead our nation as commander-in-chief. To have read this so wrong or even worse to have understood what was likely to happen and not care,” unquote.

Does President Biden not bear the blame for this disastrous exit from Afghanistan?

(…)

TAPPER: Well, the idea of them — the force not being able to defend, I mean, what a lot of experts believe, and you can disagree with this if you want, is that having the U.S. air support, having U.S. intelligence there to help the Afghan troops on the ground is what stiffens their spine and enables them to do what they do. And that’s part of the larger issue about whether or not the U.S. should have left behind any sort of residual force.

But beyond that is, again, the question of how poorly this was done. The idea that President Biden ordered 2,500 service members out and now is sending up to 5,000 service members back in, does that not on its face show the exit was ineptly planned. And, again – Look, you told me a few months ago on this program that you thought it was entirely likely the Taliban would be taking over the country. But President Biden just last month, quote, “the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely.” He was wrong.

BLINKEN: Jake, what we’ve done, what the president has done, is make sure we were able to adjust to anything happening on the ground. And the fact that we said — he sent additional forces in, we had those forces at the ready, fully prepared to go in the event that this moved in a new direction where we needed forces in place to ensure our personnel was safe and secure, to ensure also we could do everything possible to bring out of Afghanistan those Afghans most at risk. That is exactly what we’re doing.

TAPPER: Why not have the troops in there and let that happen first before taking them out?

BLINKEN: Again, I come back to what we were talking about a few minutes ago, which is that status quo was not sustainable.

(…)

TAPPER: You keep changing the subject to whether or not we should be there forever. And I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about whether or not this exit was done properly. Taking out all the service members before those Americans and those Afghan translators could get out. That’s what I’m talking about. And then you have to send people back in. That shows – that’s the definition of, “Oh, we shouldn’t have taken those troops out because now we have to send twice as many back in.”

BLINKEN: Look, I think it shows that we were prepared, the president was prepared for every contingency as this moved forward. We had those forces on hand. And they were able to deploy very quickly, again, to make sure we could move out safely and securely as the situation on the ground changed.

TAPPER: Let me just ask you is the Biden administration, right now, offering the Taliban anything in exchange for a promise of safe passage for Americans and others out of Afghanistan?

BLINKEN: No. We haven’t asked the Taliban for anything. We’ve told the Taliban that if they interfere with our personnel, with our operations, as we’re proceeding with this drawdown, there will be a swift and decisive response. That’s what we’ve told them.

TAPPER: How many Americans are left in Kabul do you think, and how long will it take to get them out? Can you promise that all Americans will get out safely?

BLINKEN: That is job number one. That is our number one mission. That is what we’re working on with a whole-of-government effort led by the state department right now. And so we have our personnel at the embassy. We have some American citizens who are still mostly bi-nationals, who are left in Afghanistan. If they want to leave, we have in place the means to do that.

(…)

TAPPER: Why now? Why are you just doing that now? On this show, we’ve been talking for months about the need to evacuate these thousands of Afghan translators and others who helped U.S. service members during the war. President Biden just named an ambassador, just a few days ago, to run an interagency task force on this. Thousands of these folks are now trapped in their homes. They cannot even try to get to Kabul, it’s not safe. I know two lieutenants, veterans who are setting up a gofundme to save their translators from [Afghanistan city]. Why did President Biden wait so long to set up the interagency task force?

(…)

TAPPER: People I know who are active in this, veterans, say they only heard from the State Department within the last few days asking for their lists of people.

(…)

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