It’s easy to understand why the Biden administration is so eager to turn the page on the Afghanistan debacle that not only resulted in the unnecessary deaths of 13 U.S. service members, but left an unknown number of Americans – suspected to be in the hundreds – behind, along with $85 billion worth of military equipment and weapons.
The White House is taking fire from all sides over the disastrous evacuation, even from down under.
At Thursday’s press briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki was confronted by a reporter from Australia who asked why Secretary of State Antony Blinken kept them out of the loop on the Afghan withdrawal when 41 Aussies died in the country in support of the U.S. campaign there.
The line of questioning coming after Psaki had an exchange with another reporter on the Taliban reportedly allying with China.
“The Taliban spokesman has told Australian news network that the 41 Australians who died in the war in Afghanistan died in vain,” the reporter said. “During this time, the Australian government found out about the withdrawal date change through media reporting. We weren’t included on the list from Secretary of State Antony Blinken of countries called on the final day, August 31. Does the Taliban have a point?”
Seemingly playing dumb, Psaki replied that she didn’t “understand” the question.
“We have sacrificed a lot for this alliance, including the lives of 41 Australians, and we’ve been left seemingly out of the loop during this withdrawal process. There hasn’t been high-level communication with the Australian government during this time,” the reporter explained.
Biden’s spokeswoman rejected the reporter’s claim, saying, “I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think we have not engaged with the Australian government. We have worked with our partners from around the world to evacuate individuals from a range of countries from around the world that needed evacuating.”
Psaki went on to say that the administration does not believe the Australians died in vain, adding that they are “incredibly grateful for their partnership, we are incredibly grateful for their support over the course of a 20-year war, and Australia remains a pivotal partner to the United States.”
At the same time, she all but acknowledged that she did not know for certain if the reporter’s claim was true.
“But I would be very shocked if we had not been in touch with and engaged with,” she said. “So what I was asking you for clarification on was question about the 31st and a call on 31st, I’m not sure what that would be a reference to.”
The reporter stressed that Blinken listed in a speech all the countries that he called on August 31 and Australia was not on that list.
“I can certainly ask the State Department when their most recent diplomatic conversations were with Australian leaders, but I know that we are in close touch and close coordination and that Australia is an incredibly vital partner, not just over the last several years in the war in Afghanistan, but a range — on a range of important global issues,” Psaki answered.
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