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Doocy Battles Biden Over Whether He’s Responsible for Collapse of Afghanistan

After hiding for hours since word came in that there had been a string of deadly bombings at the Kabul airport, President Biden addressed the nation early Thursday night and, thankfully, he not only took questions, but he went off-script to call on the perspicacious Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy and Philip Wegmann of Real Clear Politics.

In Doocy”;s case, he found himself in a back-and-forth with Biden that, at one point, left Biden burrowing his head in his hands and leather notebook after he tried to pass the blame of the collapse of Afghanistan to Donald Trump.

Wegmann was the fifth of six reporters called on and made it count by asking about a Politico report that the U.S. had given the Taliban the names of Americans and Afghan allies so that they”;re recognized when they seek to gain entry to the Taliban”;s airport perimeter:

There are reports that U.S. officials provided the Taliban with names of Americans and Afghan officials to evacuate. Were you aware of that? Did that happen? And then sir, did you personally reject a recommendation to hold or recapture the Air Force base.

Biden replied that he did wave off any move to retake Bagram Airbase because the military “;concluded”; that it “;was not much added value”; and it would be “;much wiser to focus on” Hamid Karzai International Airport. And on what could be seen as a hit list for the Taliban, Biden said “;it could have happened.”;

To the likely horror of White House staff, Doocy came next because Biden wanted to take “;one more question…from the most interesting guy I know in the press.”;

Unsurprisingly, Doocy was ready and made it count as he wanted to know about how much “;responsibility”; he “;bear[s]…for the way”; things transpired:

Mr. President, there had not been a U.S. service member killed in combat in Afghanistan since February of 2020. You set a deadline. You pulled troops out. You sent troops back in and now 12 Marines are dead. You said the buck stops with you. Do you bear any responsibility for the way that things have unfolded in the last two weeks?

Biden conceded that he “;bear[s] responsibility for fundamentally all that has happened of late,”; but immediately ditched that tone to blame Trump for his “;deal with the Taliban.”;

Telling Doocy that he wished you would “;one day say these things,”; Biden then asked Doocy whether he remembers that, but the Fox reporter called out his antics: “;Donald Trump is not the President anymore.”;

“;No, wait a minute. I’m asking you a question. Is that accurate, to the best of your knowledge,”; Biden added.

It was here that Biden buried his head in his hands (that were already resting on the podium with his leather notebook) while Doocy tried to steer things back on-track (click “;expand”;):

DOOCY: Since –; I don”;t think this is an issue that –; do you think that people have an issue with pulling out of Afghanistan or just the way that things have happened?

BIDEN: I think they have an issue that people are likely to get hurt, some as we”;ve seen, gotten killed, and that it is messy. The reason why –; whether my friend will acknowledge it or has reported it, the reason why there were no attacks on Americans, as you said, from the date until I came into office was because the commitment was made by President Trump. “;I will be out by May 1.”; In the meantime, you agree not to attack any Americans.”; That was the deal. That”;s why no American was attacked.

DOOCY: And you said it yourself a few days ago. You said you”;d squarely stand by your decision to pull out.

BIDEN: Yes, I do because look at it this way, folks. And I”;m going –; I have another meeting, for real. But imagine where we”;d be if I had indicated on May the first, I was not going to renegotiate an evacuation date. We were going to stay there. I had only one alternative. Pour thousands of more troops back into Afghanistan to fight a war that we had already won relative to the reason we went in the first place. I have never been of the view that we should be sacrificing American lives to try to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan, a country that has never once in it’s entire history been a united country…If Osama bin Laden as well as al-Qaeda had chosen to launch an attack when they left Saudi Arabia out of Yemen, would we have ever gone to Afghanistan? Even though the Taliban completely controlled Afghanistan at the time. Would we have ever gone? I know it’s not fair to ask you a question. Raise your hand if you think we should have gone and given up thousands of lives and tens of thousands of wounded….We have greater threats coming out of other countries, a heck of a lot closer to the United States. We don’t have military encampments there. We don’t keep people there. We have over there a rising capability to keep them from coming after us. Ladies and gentlemen, it was time to end a 20-year war.

Before that, Biden largely stuck to his script and first called on NBC”;s Kelly O”;Donnell (as he was “instructed” to do), who wanted to know whether he”;d “;authorize additional forces to respond to that attack”; and if he”;d send more troops to protect those still “;carrying out the evacuation operation.”;

Reuters”;s Trevor Hunnicutt followed by citing “;criticism even from people in your party about the dependence on the Taliban to skewer the perimeter of the airport”; before posing the question of whether he felt like he made “;a mistake.”;

For the two remaining questions (with the latter reporter not being on his list), the AP”;s Aamer Madhani lobbed a softball about his late son Beau while NPR”;s Franco Ordoñez wanted to know what he”;d say to Afghans who won”;t be able to get out by the August 31 deadline (click “;expand”;):

MADHANI: Thank you, Mr. President. You have spoken –; again –; powerfully about your own son and the weight of these decisions. With that in mind and also what you”;ve said that the longer we stay, the more likelihood that there would be a major attack, how do you weigh staying even one more day considering what has happened?

(….)

ORDOÑEZ: I wanted to ask you. You say that what America says matters. What do you say to the Afghans who helped troops who may not be able to get out by August 31st? What do you say to them?

To see the relevant press conference transcript, click “;expand.”;

White House press conference
August 26, 2021
5:34 p.m. Eastern

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Ladies and gentlemen, they gave me a list here. The first person I was instructed to call on was Kelly O”;Donnell of NBC

KELLY O”;DONNELL: Mr. President, you have said leaving Afghanistan is in the national interest of the United States. After today’s attack, do you believe you’ll authorize additional forces to respond to that attack inside Afghanistan, and are you prepared to add additional forces to protect those Americans who remain on the ground carrying out the evacuation operation?

BIDEN: I’ve instructed the military –; whatever they need, if they need additional force, I will grant it. But the military from the chairman of the joint chiefs –; joint chiefs, commanders in the field have all contacted me one way or another, usually by letter, saying they subscribe to the mission as designed to get as many people out as we can within the timeframe that is allotted. That is the best way, they believe, to get as many Americans out as others and with regard to finding and tracking down the ISIS leaders who ordered this, we have some reason to believe we know who they are. Not certain, and we will find ways of our choosing without large military operations to get them. Wherever they are. Trevor of Reuters.

TREVOR HUNNICUTT: Thank you, Mr. President. There”;s been some criticism even from people in your party about the dependence on the Taliban to skewer the perimeter of the airport. Do you feel there was a mistake made in that regard?

[BIDEN]

AAMER MADHANI: Thank you, Mr. President. You have spoken –; again –; powerfully about your own son and the weight of these decisions. With that in mind and also what you”;ve said that the longer we stay, the more likelihood that there would be a major attack, how do you weigh staying even one more day considering what has happened?

[BIDEN]

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ: I wanted to ask you. You say that what America says matters. What do you say to the Afghans who helped troops who may not be able to get out by August 31st? What do you say to them?

[BIDEN]

PHILIP WEGMANN: Thank you, Mr. President. There are reports that U.S. officials provided the Taliban with names of Americans and Afghan officials to evacuate. Were you aware of that? Did that happen? And then sir, did you personally reject a recommendation to hold or recapture the Air Force base?

[BIDEN]

PETER DOOCY: Mr. President, there had not been a U.S. service member killed in combat in Afghanistan since February of 2020. You set a deadline. You pulled troops out. You sent troops back in and now 12 Marines are dead. You said the buck stops with you. Do you bear any responsibility for the way that things have unfolded in the last two weeks?

BIDEN: I bear responsibility for fundamentally all that has happened of late. But here”;s the deal, you know I wish you one day say these things. You know as well as I do that a former President made a deal with the Taliban that we get all American forces out of Afghanistan by May 1. In return, the commitment was made –; that was a year before –; in return, he was given a commitment that the Taliban would continue to attack others but would not attack any American forces. Remember that? I’m being serious.

DOOCY: But Mr. President –;

BIDEN: No, no, I’m asking you a question.

DOOCY: Donald Trump is not the President anymore.

BIDEN: No, wait a minute. I’m asking you a question. Is that accurate, to the best of your knowledge?

[INAUDIBLE DOOCY]

BIDEN: Oh, wait –;

DOOCY: Since –; I don”;t think this is an issue that –; do you think that people have an issue with pulling out of Afghanistan or just the way that things have happened?

BIDEN: I think they have an issue that people are likely to get hurt, some as we”;ve seen, gotten killed, and that it is messy. The reason why –; whether my friend will acknowledge it or has reported it, the reason why there were no attacks on Americans, as you said, from the date until I came into office was because the commitment was made by President Trump. “;I will be out by May 1.”; In the meantime, you agree not to attack any Americans.”; That was the deal. That”;s why no American was attacked.

DOOCY: And you said it yourself a few days ago. You said you”;d squarely stand by your decision to pull out.

BIDEN: Yes, I do because look at it this way, folks. And I”;m going –; I have another meeting, for real. But imagine where we”;d be if I had indicated on May the first, I was not going to renegotiate an evacuation date. We were going to stay there. I had only one alternative. Pour thousands of more troops back into Afghanistan to fight a war that we had already won relative to the reason we went in the first place. I have never been of the view that we should be sacrificing American lives to try to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan, a country that has never once in it’s entire history been a united country, and is made up –; and I don’t mean this in a derogatory –; made up of different tribes who have never, ever, ever gotten along with one another. And as I said before, and this is the last comment I will make. We”;ll have more chance to talk about this — unfortunately — beyond — cause we are not out yet. If Osama bin Laden as well as al-Qaeda had chosen to launch an attack when they left Saudi Arabia out of Yemen, would we have ever gone to Afghanistan? Even though the Taliban completely controlled Afghanistan at the time. Would we have ever gone? I know it’s not fair to ask you a question. Raise your hand if you think we should have gone and given up thousands of lives and tens of thousands of wounded. Our interest in going was to prevent al-Qaeda from emerging. First to get bin Laden, wipe out al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, prevent that from happening again. As I have said a hundred times, terrorism has metastasized around the world. We have greater threats coming out of other countries, a heck of a lot closer to the United States. We don’t have military encampments there. We don’t keep people there. We have over there a rising capability to keep them from coming after us. Ladies and gentlemen, it was time to end a 20-year war. Thank you, so much.

Read more: newsbusters.org

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