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In a new interview, President Joe Biden proclaimed that he was unaware of an Army Intelligence report warning of the potential pitfalls of the withdrawal of United States troops in Afghanistan.
The host of the interview for NBC News that will air during Sunday’s Superbowl, Lester Holt, asked Biden about military leaders warning him and saying that the administration “ignored the handwriting on the wall.”
“Another described getting folks in the embassy ready to evacuate and encountering people who were essentially in denial of the situation. Does any of that ring true to you?” the host said.
“No. No. That’s not what I was told,” the president insisted.
“You were told that the U.S. administration officials were prepared, they knew it was time to get out?” the host said.
But Biden stumbled as he attempted to answer the question and not look inept and ridiculous.
“No, what I was told … no one told me that … look, there was no good time to get out. But if we had not gotten out, they acknowledged that we would have had to put a hell of a lot more troops back in. It wasn’t just 2,000, 4,000,” he said. “We would have had to significantly increase the number of troops and would be back in this war of attrition.”
Holt did his best to give the president a chance to answer again and actually address the question he was asked.
“I just want to clarify. Are you rejecting the conclusions or the accounts that are in this Army report?” he said.
“Yes, I am,” the president said.
“So they’re [the reports] not true?” the host pressed.
“I’m rejecting them,” the president said.
A report from Army intelligence claims that the White House and Senior Pentagon staff did not grasp how quickly the Taliban was gaining control in Afghanistan before they removed troops.
It said that the officials at the White House and Pentagon resisted efforts by military officials to prepare for the evacuation of its embassy personnel and Afghan allies weeks prior, The Washington Post reported.
An Army investigative report, numbering 2,000 pages and released to The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request, details the life-or-death decisions made daily by U.S. soldiers and Marines sent to secure Hamid Karzai International Airport as thousands converged on the airfield in a frantic bid to escape.
Beyond the bleak, blunt assessments of top military commanders, the documents contain previously unreported disclosures about the violence American personnel experienced, including one exchange of gunfire that left two Taliban fighters dead after they allegedly menaced a group of U.S. Marines and Afghan civilians, and a separate incident in which U.S. troops killed a member of an elite Afghan strike unit and wounded six others after they fired on the Americans.
The investigation was launched in response to an Aug. 26 suicide bombing just outside the airport that killed an estimated 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. service members. But it is much broader, providing perhaps the fullest official account yet of the evacuation operation, which spanned 17 nightmarish days and has become one of the Biden administration’s defining moments — drawing scrutiny from Republicans and Democrats for the haphazard nature in which the United States ended its longest war.
Military personnel would have been “much better prepared to conduct a more orderly” evacuation, Navy Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, the top U.S. commander on the ground during the operation, told Army investigators, “if policymakers had paid attention to the indicators of what was happening on the ground.” He did not identify any administration officials by name, but said inattention to the Taliban’s determination to complete a swift and total military takeover undermined commanders’ ability to ready their forces.