Former President Donald Trump has often promised that he would drain the swamp that is Washington, D.C. and now, after reportedly being excluded from a briefing ahead of the public on the killing of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the swamp may be trying to drain him.
When the news broke that Zawahiri had been taken out by a drone strike last weekend while with his family in Kabul, Afghanistan, Trump was a notable and telling exemption from the group that President Joe Biden’s administration had provided a heads-up to. After cagier responses on the matter following the initial reporting on the terrorists death, the National Security Council admitted Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had been notified.
According to the Washington Examiner, a spokesman for the NSC offered a brief statement Saturday that explained, “The Biden Administration spoke to Presidents Bush and Obama to notify them about the strike before it was announced publicly.”
At Tuesday’s White House press briefing, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby was less open with the Washington Post’s Tyler Pager when the correspondent asked, “John, just a quick question. Did the president alert former President Obama or Bush or Trump be- –after the strike, before he informed the public? President Obama did so when the U.S. killed Osama bin Laden. I’m wondering if there’s any communication between the current president and his predecessors in the last …
“You know, Tyler, I don’t have…I’d have to go back and check,” Kirby claimed at the time. “I don’t know if there was outreach to former commanders-in-chief after the fact. There was no notification to anybody before…the strike.”
While there is no stated rule that the current administration must provide this kind of early notification to ex-presidents, Obama had given Bush the courtesy when Osama bin Laden had been taken out in May 2011 as reported by Reuters.
“I excused myself and went home to take the call,” Bush said of learning Obama wanted to speak with him while he was dining at a Dallas, TX restaurant with former first lady Laura Bush and friends. “Obama simply said, ‘Osama bin Laden is dead.'”
Trump had not given the same courtesy to his predecessors, according to the Examiner, when an Oct. 2019 strike took out ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and when a Jan. 2020 strike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
However, the slight from Biden to Trump may be more than an in-kind cold shoulder in response to those previous instances. The current president’s mishandling of the withdrawal from the 20-year war in Afghanistan was well-documented and often attributed to changing the plan that Trump had laid out.
When Biden announced the death of Zawahiri, he treated the withdrawal as a major victory and seemingly erased Trump’s role in preparing that end. “When I ended our military mission in Afghanistan almost a year ago, I made the decision that after 20 years of war, the United States no longer needed thousands of boots on the ground in Afghanistan to protect America from terrorists who seek to do us harm.”
“And I made a promise to the American people that we continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond. We’ve done just that,” Biden went on.
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