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To Show Biden Is 'Working Hard' During Disastrous Fall of Kabul, Administration Posts Picture of Him Alone at Presidential Retreat

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A little more than a month ago, President Joe Biden said he had faith the Afghan military could hold the Taliban at bay and that the fall of the country wasn’t inevitable. A little over a week ago, U.S. intelligence estimated that the Afghan capital of Kabul could hold out for three months.

On Saturday, Biden announced he was sending in 5,000 U.S. troops to evacuate American personnel and soldiers as well as Afghans who helped the United States during our time in Afghanistan.

On Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, the Taliban moved into Kabul and declared the country the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — the old name for nation when the Taliban first controlled it between 1996 and 2001, according to The Associated Press.

As the fall of Afghanistan unfolded, Biden was at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland — and, as of Sunday night, planned to stay there through Wednesday, the AP reported. (It’s worth noting that following the publication of this article, the White House said he would be returning to Washington on Monday and delivering remarks on the situation in Afghanistan.)

However, Camp David is supposed to allow the president to stay on top of things remotely. A picture released by the White House during the disastrous weekend showed the president working hard “with the national security team to discuss the ongoing efforts to draw down our civilian footprint in Afghanistan.”

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The picture, released Saturday afternoon, was hardly reassuring.

It wasn’t reassuring either when the White House posted a similar photo on Sunday:

While the fall of Kabul was sudden — just a week prior, Reuters reported, U.S. intelligence thought the capital had at least three months before Taliban insurgents overtook it — it was clear from the time that Biden left for Camp David that the Taliban’s rush across Afghanistan was accelerating.

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As the U.K. Daily Mail reported, the Taliban took three major cities that day: Kandahar, Herat and Ghazni. The first is Afghanistan’s second-biggest city, the second a strategic point close to the Iranian border and the third is on a road south of Kabul.

At the time, with comparisons to the fall of South Vietnam’s capital in 1975 already being made, 3,000 U.S. troops were being sent to Afghanistan to aid in an evacuation and the State Department said it would be paring down its 4,000-member contingent in Kabul to what it called a “core diplomatic presence.”

Should Joe Biden have been in the White House this weekend?

On Saturday, while he was at Camp David, Biden released a statement in which he upped the number of troops involved in the evacuation to 5,000 “to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel, and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.”

However, he made clear that he had no intention in intervening in any way to even stall the rapid takeover of the country by the Taliban.

“One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me,” he said in the statement.

On Sunday, first Jalalabad fell. That was the last major population center except for Kabul not controlled by the Taliban. By the end of the day, the Taliban had eliminated that “except for Kabul” part and became the new government.

Biden was still at Camp David. Republicans noticed.

For every liberal readying the “just because he’s at Camp David doesn’t mean he’s not on the job” defense, you may want to read this Sunday night tweet from Daily Caller White House correspondent Shelby Talcott:

Meanwhile, Americans caught in Kabul by the sudden downfall — up to 10,000, according to The New York Times — are apparently getting precious little help from the State Department and its embassy officials.

The country where we fought our longest war just fell in domino-like fashion and Biden didn’t originally plan any public events for Monday. This has since changed, but the fact his schedule was originally clear in the first place should tell you all you need to know.

Furthermore, if you want to argue the president is every bit as in control from Camp David as he is from the White House, then explain this, from Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire:

Lemire and others from the AP reported Sunday night that “leading figures in the administration acknowledged they were caught off guard with the utter speed of the collapse of Afghan security forces. The challenge of that effort became clear after reports of sporadic gunfire at the Kabul airport prompted Americans to shelter as they awaited flights to safety after the U.S. Embassy was completely evacuated.”

The article noted that, “Discussions were underway for Biden to speak publicly, according to two senior administration officials who requested anonymity to discuss internal conversations. Biden, who is scheduled to remain at the presidential retreat through Wednesday, is expected to return to the White House if he decides to deliver an address.”

If the president could respond to the rapid and unexpected fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban just as effectively from Camp David as from the White House, why would he need to return to the White House to deliver remarks on the matter?

It didn’t take long for the events of this weekend to be compared to the fall of Saigon. Even the pictures looked identical.

On Sunday, however, those administration officials not on vacation were adamant the two situations weren’t analogous: “This is manifestly not Saigon,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, according to The Washington Post.

No, one supposes there were differences. For one, as the Post reported, then-President Gerald Ford was actually in the White House when Saigon fell.

UPDATE, Aug. 16, 2021: Following the publication of this article, which noted that President Biden was expected to remain at Camp David until Wednesday, the White House said he would be returning to Washington on Monday and delivering remarks on the situation in Afghanistan. This article has been updated accordingly. 

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Birthplace
Morristown, New Jersey
Education
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture




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