The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan has set off a flurry of finger-pointing as top officials grappled for control over the narrative by scrambling to duck the blame for the greatest American foreign policy catastrophe in decades.
With thousands of Americans still trapped in Kabul and reports of the conquering Taliban confiscating guns from civilians and seeking out political enemies, the Pentagon held a press conference where Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff Gen. Mark Milley took questions from reporters.
Other than President Joe Biden himself, the two defense chiefs are responsible for the rapid collapse of the Afghan government, and with much of their recent attention being devoted to putting their “woke” imprint on the military, they were caught with their pants down as the Taliban took city after city culminating with the capture of Kabul, an international humiliation that has inflicted grave damage on the reputation of the United States.
Seeking to push back against intelligence community leaks to major media outlets including The New York Times that intelligence officials had warned both Biden and Pentagon brass that Afghan security forces would be unlikely to stop a “cascading collapse,” Milley insisted that nothing that he or his political bosses saw indicated that the Afghan regime relied on being propped up by the U.S. and would disintegrate so quickly.
In a thinly-veiled shot at the intelligence community, Milley stated “I have previously said from this podium and in sworn testimony before Congress that the intelligence indicated multiple scenarios were possible.”
“However, the timeline of a rapid collapse that was widely estimated ranged from weeks to months and even years following our departure. There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days,” he said.
With pressure on the administration mounting over those who are trapped in Kabul, Austin was put on the spot over why the military that was put in charge by Biden wasn’t exercising its full capability to go out and secure safe passage for American citizens after he was pressed by CNN reporter Barbara Starr.
Starr began by asking Milley, “How can the U.S., the Pentagon, live up to that task of evacuating all Americans? Because we continue to see the violence just outside the airport, and how would you get them from around the country unless you go get them?” she asked.
Milley responded that negotiations were held with the Taliban “to facilitate safe passage of American citizens” who need to get to the airport. “We have the capability to do other things if necessary.”
He was hit with a follow-up question by Starr. “Can I ask you what that means?” she asked. “Because you also said there were international special forces there that have the capability to extract. And those words suggest very clearly in the military realm you would go get people.”
The general then suggested that such an operation would be a “policy decision,” the SECDEF jumped in with his own peculiar response.
SEC AUSTIN: "We don't have the capability to go out and collect large numbers of people." pic.twitter.com/k4cZESUav2
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) August 18, 2021
“I would draw a distinction, Barb, between extracting someone in an extremist condition or circumstance versus going out and collecting up large numbers of American citizens,” Austin said.
Starr asked, “But you have the capability to go out and collect Americans?”
Austin responded, “We don’t have the capability to go out and collect large numbers of people.”
There were times during the press conference when Austin appeared to be completely lost, like when he was confronted over being at the mercy of the Taliban, and had to be rescued by Milley.
(Video: The Hill)
Meanwhile, as D.C. officials work to wriggle away from responsibility for the crisis, the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate with video emerging of the tense scene outside of Hamid Karzai Airport which has been surrounded by the Taliban.
This is the scene at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul pic.twitter.com/zCrfszWTBx
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) August 18, 2021
As for Biden, he cut his vacation short and returned to Washington to engage in damage control, sitting down for an interview with longtime Clinton family mouthpiece George Stephanopoulos where he defended the withdrawal after remarks on Monday that events “did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated”
The POTUS also held his own press conference but, instead of focusing on the crisis in Afghanistan, attacked Republican governors including Ron DeSantis over mask mandates in schools. He then scurried away without taking questions.
Americans are stuck in Afghanistan and Joe Biden turns his back on questions. pic.twitter.com/yInaBfx3nw
— For America (@ForAmerica) August 18, 2021
It’s been a tough week for Biden and his underlings, so tough that the “leader” of the free world will be retreating to his Delaware home to escape scrutiny over the consequences of his disastrous mismanagement of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
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