President Joe Biden has launched an impassioned defense of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan following criticism of the chaotic evacuation in 2021.
On Friday, Aug. 12, 2021, Biden left for what was expected to be a mid-August vacation to Camp David. Three days later, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan informed him that the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, had fled Kabul ahead of the Taliban’s impending takeover of the city.
According to journalist Franklin Foer’s upcoming book “The Last Politician,” sources say a frustrated Biden exclaimed, “Give me a break!” after being told the news. He was not alone in his lack of preparation; National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had gone to the Hamptons, and then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki had taken her family to the coast.
The withdrawal culminated in a dramatic scene when a U.S. C-17 military transport aircraft filled with evacuees took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in August 2021, and desperate people grabbed onto the landing gear in a bid to escape the Taliban’s onslaught. Images of Afghans falling from the sky quickly became some of the most provocative visual representations of the chaotic evacuation.
The Biden administration evacuated more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan, but this “improvised feat of logistics” was not enough to ward off criticism, according to Foer’s new book. Biden himself was frustrated by the tough coverage from both conservative media and the more ‘venerable’ outlets he respected and heeded. But the bad press could not change Biden’s goal of a peaceful withdrawal from Afghanistan or his rejection of the “conventional wisdom of the foreign policy elites.”
Foer’s book paints a vivid picture of the first two years of Biden’s presidency. He credits Biden for sticking to his beliefs despite dissent from policy elites. Although the evacuation was chaotic, Foer argues that Biden’s “belief that exiting a war without hope was the best and only course,” was ultimately the right decision.
The White House has offered no response to Foer’s description of the events, but Biden has publicly defended his decisions on Afghanistan. In an August 2021 statement, Biden reflected on the complexity of the situation, stating “Our presence in Afghanistan is not open-ended. We are beginning the responsible drawdown of forces that I mandated from the start of my administration.”
Ultimately, the 2021 evacuation from Afghanistan left much to be desired, but sources say Biden held firm to his personal beliefs despite the fierce criticism. With the publication of Foer’s book, the nation has a more nuanced view of the decision and its repercussions.