Joe Biden said ‘We got all kinds of cables’ after being grilled over why he’d ignored a classified memo warning Afghanistan would quickly fall to the Taliban.
The warning, sent via a diplomatic memo, was flagged to the president during a rare press conference Friday. It warned Biden that predictions the Afghan capital of Kabul would hold off the Taliban until the end of the year were far too optimistic, with the city ultimately falling to the extremist group in just five days.
‘We’ve learned over the past 24 hours that there was a dissent cable from the State Department saying that the Taliban would come faster through Afghanistan,’ Justin Sink, a correspondent for Bloomberg said at a White House press conference.
‘Can you say why after that cable was issued the U.S. didn’t do more to get Americans out?’
President Joe Biden was asked why Americans weren’t evacuated more quickly in light of a warning from U.S. diplomats in Kabul
‘We’ve learned over the past 24 hours that there was a dissent cable from the State Department saying that the Taliban would come faster through Afghanistan,’ Justin Sink, pictured, a correspondent for Bloomberg said at a White House press conference. ‘Can you say why after that cable was issued the U.S. didn’t do more to get Americans out?’
‘We got all kinds of cables,’ Biden said in response.
‘All kinds of advice. If you notice, they range from this group saying – they didn’t say it would fall when it did fall, but saying that it would fall, to others saying it wouldn’t happen for a long time and they’d be able to sustain themselves through the end of the year.
‘I made the decision. The buck stops with me. I took the consensus opinion. The consensus opinion was that in fact it would not occur, if it occurred, until later in the year. It was my decision.’
The Biden administration has come in for criticism having been caught unready over the speed of the Taliban takeover following the departure of U.S. troops.
There are said to be thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies granted US visas still stranded in the country.
‘I got all kinds of cables, all kinds of advice, if you noticed,’ Biden said. Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens at right
The Wall Street Journal first reported two dozen officials at the U.S. embassy in Kabul sent a memo alerting Secretary of State Antony Blinken together with an official in the State Department that the Taliban were well-positioned to take over once US troops had departed
The Wall Street Journal first reported two dozen officials at the U.S. embassy in Kabul sent a memo alerting Secretary of State Antony Blinken together with an official in the State Department that the Taliban were well-positioned to take over the country once the U.S. withdrew its forces by the end of August.
It has also been suggested the President told G7 leaders at their meeting in Cornwall in June that he would keep ‘critical US enablers’ in Kabul following the US exit from Afghanistan to ensure a Western presence could continue in the capital, according to the diplomatic memo seen by Bloomberg.
British officials read the memo, issued before the Taliban’s lightning offensive across the country, as meaning enough security personnel would stay to ensure that the UK embassy in Kabul could continue operating, according to the news service.
Instead, the British embassy has also been evacuated alongside its American counterpart.
Taliban fighters stand guard along a roadside near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war
Biden defended the US withdrawal, saying he had ‘seen no questioning of our credibility from our allies around the world’ after speaking with Nato partners.
But Nato members had a message for Washington following a virtual meeting of foreign ministers on Friday, with the 30-nation group calling on the US to secure Kabul airport for as long as it takes, even if that stretches beyond the evacuation of all American nationals.
Although the president has stated firmly he stands believes his decision to withdraw troops was the right one, he admitted the speed at which the Taliban took over had caught the entire administration off-guard.
As well a seizing power, the Islamist extremist group now also has billions of dollars worth of U.S. military equipment and weapons within reach.
During Friday’s press conference, Biden signaled US efforts to rescue American citizens could wrap up at the end of the month.
Asked whether the US could get all Americans out of Afghanistan by August 31, President Biden told reporters: ‘I think we can get it done by then, but we’re going to make that judgment as we go.’
A Taliban fighter holds rocket propelled grenade launcher as he stands guard with others at an entrance gate outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul
‘We got all kinds of cables’: Biden’s remarks on memo warning of Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan
Now, Justin Sink of Bloomberg.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You just said that you would keep a laser-focus on counterterrorism efforts and that you don’t see as great of a threat of terrorism from Afghanistan as other parts of the world. But if you and your administration so badly mis-assessed how quickly the Taliban would sweep through Afghanistan and we no longer have an embassy there from which to run intelligence operations, how can you at all be confident of your assessment of the risk of terrorism and the ability of the U.S. to conduct over-the-horizon missions to keep it in check? Can you tell Americans that they’re safe and will remain safe from terror attacks in Afghanistan?
THE PRESIDENT: I think you’re comparing apples and oranges. One question was whether or not the Afghan forces we trained up would stay and fight in their own civil war they had going on.
No one — I shouldn’t say ‘no one’ — the consensus was that it was highly unlikely that in 11 days they’d collapse and fall, and the leader of Afghanistan would flee the country.
That’s a very different question than whether or not there is the ability to observe whether or not large groups of terrorists began to accumulate in a particular area in Afghanistan to plot against the United States of America. That’s why we retained an over-the-horizon capability to go in and do something about that if that occurs — if that occurs.
But in the meantime, we know what’s happening around the world. We know what’s happening in terms of what’s going on in other countries, where there is the significant rise of terrorist organizations in the Middle East, in East Africa, and other places.
And so, the bottom line is: We have to do — we’re dealing with those terrorist threats from other parts of the world in failed states without permanent military — without permanent military presence there. We have to do the same in Afghanistan.
Q And, sir, just on that initial assessment: We’ve learned, over the last 24 hours, that there was a dissent cable from the State Department —
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
Q — saying that the Taliban would come faster through Afghanistan. Can you say why, after that cable was issued, the U.S. didn’t do more to get Americans out?
THE PRESIDENT: We’ve got all kind of cables, all kinds of advice. If you notice, it ranged from this group saying that — they didn’t say it’d fall when it would fall — when it did fall — but saying that it would fall; to others saying it wouldn’t happen for a long time and they’d be able to sustain themselves through the end of the year.
I made the decision. The buck stops with me. I took the consensus opinion. The consensus opinion was that, in fact, it would not occur, if it occurred, until later in the year. So, it was my decision.