A new report claims that several key White House officials including President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were out of pocket when Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul fell to the Taliban earlier this month, providing the latest evidence that no one in the top tier of government really understood how dire the situation was there.
Even as Taliban fighters had been rapidly advancing towards the capital, rolling up one major district and province after another, Biden was leaving for Camp David the day before the collapse and, according to The Washington Post, Blinken was already vacationing in The Hamptons, an extremely affluent region along the southern portion of New York’s Long Island.
“Within hours, long-haired Taliban fighters had seized those checkpoints,” the Post reported, describing the morning of Aug. 15, when some Afghan security officials were still preparing to defend against the marauding Taliban.
“The president had fled, not bothering to tell U.S. officials or even many of his own top lieutenants on his way out the palace door,” the paper added. “And a country that has been whiplashed by multiple violent overthrows in its modern history was on course for a chaotic, destructive and humiliating end to the American era.
“That outcome stunned top U.S. officials, several of whom had been on vacation when the weekend began, having expected the pro-Western government to hang on for weeks, if not months or even years longer,” said the Post, which added that its report was based “on nearly two dozen interviews with U.S. and Afghan officials, a Taliban commander and residents of the city.
In addition to Biden and Blinken being out of the loop more or less, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was nowhere to be found either, providing an “out of the office” email auto-response for a week beginning the same day that the Taliban entered Kabul, only to return a day later as the situation escalated and criticism grew online.
Meanwhile, White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates at present has an “out of the office” auto-responder as well set from Aug. 28-Sept. 5, even though the deadline for pulling out of Kabul is Tuesday and violence in the city has been escalating.
The Post explained, based on its interviews, that Afghan government officials in Kabul and in several key provinces were telling American officials that there were plans for the defense of Kabul and the central government in general, but nothing ever materialized though U.S. officials requested them.
That included Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled ahead of the Taliban takeover with more than $160 million in cash, according to reports.
“As for the collapse of the (outgoing) regime, it is most eloquently characterized by the way Ghani fled Afghanistan,” Nikita Ishchenko, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Kabul, told Russian news agency RIA, according to Reuters. “Four cars were full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac.”
Ghani also told aides that his forces could hold off the Taliban, needing only about six months to turn the situation around. That proved inaccurate.
But, as the Post reported, “The Americans, meanwhile, were suffering their own delusions.”
“In June, U.S. intelligence agencies had assessed that the Afghan government would hang on for at least another six months. By August, the dominant view was that the Taliban wasn’t likely to pose a serious threat to Kabul until late fall,” the paper reported.
“American officials may have been urging Ghani to show greater urgency. But their own actions suggested no immediate cause for alarm, with officials surrendering to the customary rhythms of Washington in August,” WaPo added.
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