White House press secretary Jen Psaki was taken to task on social media Thursday following a remark she made during a press conference after an earlier briefing by President Joe Biden on the heels of the deadliest attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 18 months.
During her briefing, Psaki said in response to a question from Fox News’ Peter Doocy about the attack that the U.S. continued to possess “an enormous amount of leverage over the Taliban” economically, which earned her no shortage of incredulous responses on social media and speculation about paying future ransom for Americans left stranded.
“Does the president really think that they [the Taliban] are going to be reliable partners if we’re already getting reports that they’re not letting Afghans into the airport, and the U.S. is still at the airport,” Doocy said.
Psaki responded that “more than 7,000 people” were evacuated from the country over the previous 12 hours, which included during the horrific attack that killed dozens of Afghanis as well as 13 U.S. troops.
“Those were individuals who were led through gates, who were let onto planes, and got us well over 100,000 people who have been evacuated,” Psaki continued. “Again, this is not about trust, this is not about relying on the Taliban as in ‘equal partner.’ No one is suggesting that. But because they control large swaths of the country, including a lot of the security perimeters around the airport, we have to coordinate with them in order to get people out.”
Psaki started to move on to another reporter, but hesitated and came back to Doocy.
“But I — so one more thing I would say is that we have an enormous amount of leverage — this is our view — over time,” she added. “That includes economic leverage, that includes leverage that we will make clear to the Taliban as it relates to coordination continuing to get American citizens and our partners out.”
Several users responded negatively, and with mocking, to the claim.
“‘We have leverage’ did Psaki really just say that?! We have 12 dead marines,” one user wrote on Twitter.
Some lawmakers also responded to Psaki’s statement, including House Republican Conference chair Elise Stefanik of New York.
“The White House is saying we have enormous ‘leverage’ with the Taliban! The safety of US troops and Americans behind enemy lines should never be dependent on ‘leverage!’ The United States of America does not negotiate with terrorists!” she wrote.
“Extremely dangerous strategy by the Biden Administration wanting to use ‘economic leverage’ with the Taliban to get Americans out of Afghanistan moving forward. This is starting to sound more and more like they are planning for hostage negotiations and ransom payments,” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), tweeted.
“I’m about 30 minutes behind on DVR watching Psaki. Amazed by this idea we’ll have ‘an enormous amount of leverage’ *after* we fully withdraw all military forces,” pundit Jonah Goldberg added.
“Per Psaki, We have enormous amount of leverage. Are we paying off the Taliban?” former Trump communications specialist Mercedes Schlapp noted.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) August 26, 2021
Jen Psaki. (We have) “an enormous amount of leverage over the Taliban" economically. "That is our view." Uh. But I thought the Taliban want to live like it’s still the 13th century? 🤔
— Yngwie Swain (Amish Guy) (@DJYngwie) August 26, 2021
Someone should put Psaki on a seesaw and provide an “enormous amount of leverage” by dropping a Cadillac on the other side. https://t.co/xQEwIb37gs
— Mayer Fertig (@MayerFertig) August 26, 2021
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