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White House Officials Grilled Over Disastrous Retreat From Afghanistan

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


In another indication that the mainstream media, once considered an ally to the administration, has abandoned Joe Biden members of his team took shrapnel from news anchors this weekend.

During Sunday interviews national security advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were grilled on CNN and Fox News.

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CNN anchor Brianna Keilar directly confronted Sullivan over what Joe Biden said about the evacuations from Afghanistan last week.

Biden was asked during his press conference if he would consider sending troops to Kabul to “evacuate Americans who haven’t been able to get to the airport safely.”

“We have no indication that they haven’t been able to get — in Kabul — through the airport.  We’ve made an agreement with the — with the Taliban.  Thus far, they’ve allowed them to go through.  It’s in their interest for them to go through.  So, we know of no circumstance where American citizens are — carrying an American passport — are trying to get through to the airport.  But we will do whatever needs to be done to see to it they get to the airport.,” he said.

But that was quickly contradicted minutes later when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Blinken and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, held a conference call with members of Congress.

“We’re also aware that some people, including Americans, have been harassed and even beaten by the Taliban,” Secretary Austin said, multiple sources reported.

“This is unacceptable and [we] made it clear to the designated Taliban leader,” he said.

During his speech Biden had also asserted that Al Qaeda had been wiped out in Afghanistan.

“Look, let’s put this thing in perspective here.  What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al Qaeda gone?  We went to Afghanistan for the express purpose of getting rid of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, as well as — as well as getting Osama bin Laden.  And we did,” he said.

But at around 2:30pm EDT, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby spoke to reporters where he contradicted Biden.

“We know that al-Qaeda is a presence, as well as ISIS, in Afghanistan,” he said. “And we’ve talked about that for quite some time.

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“But we don’t have an exact figure for you. It is not like they carry ID cards. And our intelligence gathering ability in Afghanistan isn’t what it used to be,” he said.

Then he was told by a reporter that Biden said al-Qaeda was gone in Afghanistan.

“We don’t think – we believe there isn’t a significant presence to merit a threat to our homeland, as there was back on 9/11 twenty years ago,” he said.

Keilar took Sullivan to task on both messages from Biden.

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“We know that’s not true,” she said. “We know there are many instances where that has not been true. And the Pentagon has acknowledged that as well. He also said that al-Qaeda is gone from Afghanistan. But, of course, from the UN, from the Joint Chiefs, we know that is also untrue. Why is he misleading with his words here?”

Sullivan contended that al-Qaeda does not “represent… a threat to the United States homeland,” but in the future it could.

And in defense of Biden’s comments on Americans and allies getting to the airport in Kabul he said “What the president has consistently directed his team to do, and what he has explained, in fact, in that very press conference, is that if there are any issues with the movement of Americans through the city, we have dealt with those cases one by one and resolved them, when that information is presented to us.”

And when Wallace interviewed Blinken he hit him with the same question, noting that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul warned U.S. citizens of “potential security threats,” and advised them not to go to the airport in Kabul “unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.”

“That alert directly contradicts what President Biden said just hours before on Friday,” he said. “My question is, is that because the situation in getting to the airport, even for Americans, is more dangerous than the president indicated, or is it because of a reported new threat from ISIS?”

Blinken agreed that it was an “incredibly volatile situation,” but Wallace kept pressing.

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“What the president said just wasn’t true,” the host said. He added that it was “flat wrong” for Biden to say“I have seen no question of our credibility from our allies around the world.”

“Mr. Secretary, does the president not know what’s going on?” he said.

“This is an incredibly emotional time for many of us and including allies and partners who have been shoulder to shoulder with us in Afghanistan for 20 years, at high cost to themselves as well as us…But I’ve got to tell you this, Chris, from the get-go, I spent more time with our NATO partners in Brussels virtually, from before the president made his decision, to when he made his decision, to every time since. We’ve been working very, very closely together,” the secretary said.

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