Blinken and Kerry headed to France in wake of Aussie sub deal friction

Blinken and Kerry headed to France in wake of Aussie sub deal friction

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken gives opening remarks as he meets with local labor leaders the IBEW Local #5 for a roundtable, Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Rebecca Droke, Pool) **FILE** more >

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By Guy Taylor

The Washington Times

Friday, October 1, 2021

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will aim to ease the U.S.-France diplomatic rift with a trip to Paris next week, amid ongoing French outrage over President Biden‘s recent inking of a nuclear-powered submarine deal with Australia that undercut a previous $65 billion deal Canberra had signed with France.

The State Department did not mention the submarine deal fracas in announcing Mr. Blinken‘s visit, which is slated to occur Monday through Wednesday. A department statement Friday said a key focus of the trip will be discussions toward bolstering the bilateral relationship on a number of issues, “including security in the Indo-Pacific.”

Mr. Blinken will follow the France visit with a trip to Mexico next Thursday and Friday to lead a U.S. delegation participating in a high-level security dialogue there.

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The France visit will be watched closely for signs of friction with the government of President Emmanuel Macron, who has used anger over the submarine deal to push fellow European countries to assert their independence from the current security reliance on the United States.

The Biden administration has downplayed the diplomatic tension with Paris while signaling it will press forward with the new security alliance with Australia and Britain.

As part of the new alliance, the U.S. will provide Australia with nuclear-powered technology for eight new submarines in a bid to bolster the West’s military assets in China’s backyard. Australia canceled a previous deal to buy French-built diesel-electric submarines. France was kept out of talks on the new strategic alliance and was only alerted just before the submarine deal shift was announced.

The Macron government responded by briefly recalling France‘s ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia — the first-ever such recall by Paris of an ambassador to Washington.

Mr. Macron ordered the ambassador to return to Washington last week, following a phone call with President Biden, after which the two leaders issued a joint statement saying French and U.S. officials would work on trying to restore “confidence” to the longstanding U.S.-France alliance.

The State Department said Friday that Mr. Blinken, who spent time growing up in France and speaks French, will chair a “Ministerial Council Meeting” of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and commemorate the OECD’s 60th anniversary.

Mr. Kerry, a former secretary of state himself who is now Mr. Biden‘s special envoy on climate issues, is traveling to Paris just weeks before the opening of a global summit on climate change in Britain

The State Department said the U.S. delegation will engage in discussions with French officials on a range of topics, including “the climate crisis, economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the transatlantic relationship, and working with our allies and partners to address global challenges and opportunities.”

• Joseph Clark contributed to this story.

Democratic House chairman provides Biden cover on Afghan troop pullout

Democratic House chairman provides Biden cover on Afghan troop pullout

In second day of hearings, Smith says generals 'wrong' to oppose withdrawal

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Rep. Adam Smith, Washington state Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is shown in this file photo from April 12, 2018. In a Armed Services Committee meeting on Sept. 29, 2021, Mr. Smith defended the Biden administration’s … more >

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By Joseph Clark

The Washington Times

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith on Wednesday defended President Biden’s decision to end the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan, telling the Pentagon’s top leadership the generals were “wrong” to push to keep U.S. troops in the country.

In a second day of Hill hearings on the chaotic end of the Afghan mission and the road ahead, the Washington state Democrat said the recommendations by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley and U.S. Central Command head Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie provided to Mr. Biden before the withdrawal were misguided. 

On Tuesday, the generals had raised glaring concerns when they confirmed before the Senate Armed Services Committee that they privately advised the White House to keep at least 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and opposed a time-based withdrawal from the country. Their statements seemed to contradict President Biden’s claims in an August interview that Pentagon brass was on board with his Aug. 31 exit date.

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The U.S.-backed Kabul government fell to the Taliban insurgency even before the Pentagon could complete its withdrawal, leading to a bloody and confused emergency evacuation mission last month.

“There are some, going back to the issue of whether or not we should have left Afghanistan, who imagined that there was sort of a middle option that we could have kept 2,500 troops there, and a relatively peaceful and stable environment,” Mr. Smith said in his opening statement Wednesday.

“I think the way that option has been presented by many of the critics has been fundamentally disingenuous. The option of keeping 2500 troops in Afghanistan in a peaceful and stable environment did not exist,” he said.

SEE ALSO: House panel grills Pentagon brass a day after Afghanistan testimony contradicted Biden’s comments

Senate Republicans seized on Tuesday’s revelation and slammed Mr. Biden for what they said were misleading statements to the public.

“Today’s hearing confirmed much of what I suspected: President Biden ignored the advice of his top military leaders, including his commanders on the ground – and then lied to the American people about it,” said Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Tuesday.

But Mr. Smith tried to provide some cover for the president, disputing the Republicans’ read on the matter.

“This has been the subject of a huge misunderstanding in the last 24 hours and that, again, I find very, very disingenuous,” Mr. Smith said.

“What the president actually said was, there was no option on the table to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan in a stable environment,” he said. “That’s what he said, not that no one presented that option. That option didn’t exist in reality. … The president, in fact, made it clear earlier in that same interview, that yes, some of his military leaders had said that we should keep 2,500 troops there.”

The remarks align with the White House’s response to Tuesday’s testimony. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday that the Republican criticisms took Mr. Biden’s August remarks out of context and said “there was a wide range of viewpoints” offered by the president’s national security team.

Mr. Smith said that while he believed Mr. Biden would be proven right.

“I think they were wrong, and so did the President,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s not that they didn’t give the advice, it’s that they were wrong.”

“This committee has an enormous amount of respect for our military leadership, that does not mean that the military leadership is incapable of being wrong,” he said.

But Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, strongly challenged the chairman’s analysis of the debate.

“While I have great admiration for my friend, the chairman, I could not disagree more with his observations about Afghanistan and the president’s decision,” Mr. Rogers said in his opening remarks.

“The fact is, our coalition partners and our military leadership felt that we should have maintained our 2,500 troops there along with the roughly 7,500 to 8,000 coalition troops and the thousands of contractors that the Afghan army was dependent upon to fight successfully,” he said. “And I think they could have continued, as they have in past years, to fight valiantly had we given that support and the president had listened to his generals’ advice.”

Strategic failure — perfectly executed

Strategic Failure — Perfectly Executed

General Milley blames President Biden for Afghan Catastrophe

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley listens to a Senator’s question during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, … more >

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By Charles Hurt


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Well, now we know why there was no plan to evacuate Afghanistan after 20 years without abandoning thousands of American citizens and allies on the battlefield, killing 13 U.S. troops, and surrendering $80 billion worth of American military equipment to our terrorist enemy.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley was too busy to come up with one. He was too busy leaking to a raft of Washington reporters who spent the past year digging up dirt for the library of rabidly anti-Trump books they were writing.

Indeed, loose lips really do sink ships.

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It was a moment of stunning honesty during Tuesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, ordered Gen. Milley to provide simple “yes” or “no” answers to her questions in hopes that he might quit all the dodging and weaving he had been doing all morning about the disastrous collapse of Kabul.

“‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to this — Did you talk to Bob Woodward or Robert Costa for their book, Peril?”

“Woodward, yes. Costa, no.”

“Did you talk to Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker for their book, I Alone Can Fix It?”

“Yes.”

“Did you talk to Michael Bender for his book, Frankly We Did Win This Election — The Inside Story of How Trump Lost — yes or no?”

“Yes.”

But all honesty ended right there. Mrs. Blackburn then asked Gen. Milley if he was accurately portrayed in the books, and he went back to dodging.

“I haven’t read any of the books, so I don’t know,” he replied.

Yes or no question: Does Mark Milley strike you as the kind of guy who talks to reporters about himself but doesn’t look to see what they wrote about him

Um, no.

In a modest town like Washington, everybody starts books at the very end — searching the index for their own name. And Gen. Milley is a perfect creature of Washington. Whether he is fashionably flogging himself for the television cameras over “white rage” or dodging blame for losing every war he ever touched, Gen. Milley is a Swamp Creature from central casting.

Before Mrs. Blackburn opened up a can of Straight Talk on him, Gen. Milley was busy telling everyone what a huge “success” the Afghanistan retreat really was.

The only unpleasantness you might have noticed — i.e., bodies falling from the sky, dead U.S. troops, women beaten to death for not cooking proper meals for the Taliban — were all just the result of “strategic failure.” In other words, the commander-in-chief’s fault.

“Strategic decisions have strategic consequences,” he said flippantly.

 Oh yes, strategic failure — perfectly executed. 

In other words, the bodies of Afghan civilians clinging to landing gear landed right on target. Troops signed up to die. And that lady who refused to cook for the Taliban? She had it coming.

Gen. Milley spent the entire hearing hilariously refusing to discuss his discussions with President Biden while at the very same time explaining what his advice was so as to blame the whole fiasco entirely on Mr. Biden.

By the time the game of rope-a-dope was over, Gen. Milley was openly admitting that Mr. Biden — whose secret discussions could not be revealed — had entirely ignored his advice, which of course was to stay in Afghanistan until the return of Jesus Christ or Mohammed or Greta Thunberg. (We strive to be open-minded, non-denominational, and inclusive here at the Nuclear Option.)

“The president doesn’t have to agree with that advice,” the general explained as he backed away from the steaming pile of blame he just dumped on Mr. Biden.

“He doesn’t have to make those decisions just because we are generals. And it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to resign just because my advice was not taken.”

Oh my. Such a brave hero.

Mark Milley is the reincarnation of Gen. Douglas MacArthur — minus all the victories.

• Charles Hurt is the opinion editor at the Washington Times.

Top generals dispute Biden’s claims on Afghan withdrawal

Military brass on defense as Senate Afghanistan hearing kicks off

Biden's abrupt withdrawal order gets harsh scrutiny amid Kabul chaos

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool) more >

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By Ben Wolfgang and Joseph Clark

The Washington Times

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Pentagon’s top brass were on the defensive early Tuesday as the Senate Armed Services Committee kicked off its highly anticipated hearing on President Biden‘s troubled withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Anticipating tough questions from lawmakers on the panel, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin assured that the military remained in lockstep with Mr. Biden and had begun preparing for the withdrawal well in advance — even as he acknowledged that the Pentagon‘s leadership originally opposed the White House’s mandated Sept. 11 withdrawal deadline.

“We wanted to be ready. And we were,” Mr. Austin said in his opening remarks, pushing back on the widely held perception that the Biden administration was caught flat-footed as the Taliban swept Kabul in less than two weeks in late August.

SEE ALSO: Gen. Milley defends calls to Chinese: ‘I was certain’ Trump wouldn’t order attack

“To be clear, those first two days were difficult,” he said. “We all watched with alarm the images of Afghans rushing the runway and our aircraft. We all remember the scenes of confusion outside the airport. But within 48 hours, our troops restored order, and the process began to take hold.”

Having skirted congressional hearings on Afghanistan earlier this month, Mr. Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark A. Milley, and head of U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie appeared before the panel in what’s expected to be a lengthy, heated hearing focused heavily on the Biden administration’s military missteps before and during the chaotic withdrawal, and the limitations that now face the Pentagon as it crafts a counterterrorism strategy without the benefit of having assets on the ground in Afghanistan

A second grilling before the House Armed Services Committee is set for Wednesday.

Although the military has escaped much of the political vitriol for the chaotic withdrawal, lawmakers have become increasingly critical of the Pentagon leadership. Some leading Republicans on Capitol Hill have called for both Mr. Austin and Gen. Milley to resign over their handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Those calls grew louder after disclosures in a book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa which included a claim that Gen. Milley was so worried about Mr. Trump’s mental state that he assembled top military leaders and advised them not to launch a nuclear strike — even if it was directly ordered by Mr. Trump — unless he was there. The authors also claimed that Gen. Milley effectively told China that the U.S. had no plans to attack in the fraught final days of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

The general has spoken little about those incidents, and in his opening remarks attempted to head off lawmakers’ questions and defend his actions. He said the calls to his Chinese counterpart were made with the “knowledge and coordination of civilian oversight,” and under Department of Defense guidance, and were made because of intelligence suggesting Beijing thought military action was looming.

“I’ve served this nation for 42 years,” he said. “I spent years in combat, and I buried a lot of my troops who died while defending this country. My loyalty for this nation, its people, and the Constitution hasn’t changed and will never change. As long as I have a breath to give. My loyalty is absolute.”

Both Mr. Austin and Gen. Milley’s remarks will likely do little to lighten the blows from lawmakers in the hearing.

Republican lawmakers, especially, have zeroed in on what they believe was a disconnect between Pentagon leadership and the president’s White House team. They questioned why Mr. Biden would have stuck by his original withdrawal plan, overruling his military advisers, amid mounting evidence that the U.S.-backed Afghan government was on the verge of a quick collapse and the Islamist Taliban ready to rapidly overrun the entire country.

The result: a quick collapse of the Kabul government, a hasty,chaotic evacuation highlighted by a deadly terrorist attack and the abandonment of U.S. supplies and weaponry, and the failure to secure safe passage out for a number of U.S. citizens and an even larger number of Afghans who aided the allied war effort and were in danger of being targeted by the Taliban.

“President Biden made a strategic decision to leave Afghanistan which resulted in the death of 13 U.S. service members, the deaths of hundreds of Afghan civilians, including women and children, and left American citizens surrounded by the very terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 — and they’re still there,” said Oklahoma Sen. James M. Inhofe, the Armed Services panel’s ranking Republican in his opening remarks.

“President Biden and his advisers didn’t listen to his combat commander,” he said. “He didn’t listen to Congress. And he failed to anticipate what all of us knew would happen. So in August, we all witnessed a horror of the president’s own making,” he said.

Turkish president to defy U.S., buy more Russian-made missile defense systems

Turkish president to defy U.S., buy more Russian-made missile defense systems

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the media after Friday prayers, in Istanbul, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. Erdogan said Friday that recent talks with U.S. President Joe Biden had proved disappointing, and that his country, a NATO member, would … more >

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will brush aside strong warnings from the U.S. and move ahead with additional purchases of a major Russian-made missile defense system.

In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” that aired Sunday morning, a defiant Mr. Erdogan again made clear that Turkey intends to move ahead in its military partnership with Russia. Specifically, he suggested his country will buy another round of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system despite that system creating a wedge between the U.S. and Turkey, a fellow NATO member.

“I’m going to possibly acquire defense systems from another country and nobody can get involved in this,” Mr. Erdogan said. 

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“In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from which country at what level. Nobody can interfere with that. We are the only ones to make such decisions,” he said. “We are a country with 84 million inhabitants and we are very resolute in terms of our defense systems and the necessary measures to be taken, and nobody can interfere with that.”

After Turkey bought its first round of the S-400 in 2019, the Trump administration kicked Ankara out of the Pentagon’s F-35 fighter jet program. Turkish companies had played a key role in the assembly of the F-35, and Turkish pilots were in the U.S. learning how to fly the cutting-edge planes.

But Pentagon officials argued that the S-400 and F-35 were incompatible. The Defense Department and other federal agencies warned that the S-400 could collect information about the F-35, potentially opening up major security vulnerabilities and robbing the F-35 of some of its stealth capabilities.

In addition to removing Turkey from the F-35 program, the U.S. also imposed sanctions on some Turkish officials in response to the S-400 purchase. But none of those steps have dissuaded Mr. Erdogan, who said he has made Turkey‘s position clear to President Biden.

“I explained everything to President Biden,” Mr. Erdogan said when asked whether Mr. Biden asked him to stop buying S-400s.

U.S. touts diversity at COVID-delayed World’s Fair in Dubai

U.S. touts diversity at COVID-delayed World’s Fair in Dubai

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Journalists visit Terra, The Sustainability Pavilion, during a media tour at the Dubai World Expo site in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. With the inauguration of Expo 2020 Dubai, the next world’s fair, nine months away amid … more >

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By Sean Salai

The Washington Times

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The U.S. will promote cultural diversity at the World’s Fair in Dubai, the first international exposition in the Middle East that starts Oct. 1.

The State Department has selected commercial real estate developer Robert Clark to serve as its commissioner general at the event. He will lead 75 young cultural “ambassadors” who will represent the country at the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

“I’m personally looking forward to showcasing the diversity, culture and values of America through this group of youth ambassadors,” Mr. Clark, a 2010 Obama appointee to the White House Preservation Committee, told The Washington Times. “They embody the best qualities of our national melting pot, while presenting the great potential of our collective future.”

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Last week, the State Department hosted an in-person orientation at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel for Mr. Clark and the youth ambassadors.

“Their excitement and enthusiasm for Expo were energizing, and I am very much looking forward to getting out to Dubai to work with the entire USA Pavilion team. We are planning a wonderful exhibition at Expo 2020, and I hope people come out to see it,” Mr. Clark told The Times.

He will serve as the U.S. government’s senior representative at Dubai throughout the fair, which will conclude on March 31.

Officials said America’s participation in the pandemic-delayed World’s Fair will seek to project a hopeful image of a diverse nation that’s moving beyond COVID-19.

The fair arrives amid international pessimism over the Biden administration’s handling of crises like the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, France’s recall of its U.S. ambassador over the Australian nuclear sub deal and the U.S. southern border crisis.

According to a State Department press release, the USA Pavilion’s theme of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of the Future” intends to highlight “the American vision of innovation, diversity, and our future.”

“Youth Ambassadors embody President Biden’s call to ‘lead by the strength of our example,’” the statement declared.

On the USA Pavilion website, a theme statement adds: “Our exhibits, events, and programs will showcase the United States as a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security throughout Expo 2020 Dubai.”

Construction of the U.S. Pavilion in Dubai began in March 2020.

The next World’s Fair will be Expo 2025 Osaka in Japan.

According to the State Department, the U.S. has had national pavilions at all but two overseas Expos since 1851, and has hosted a dozen World’s Fairs. New Orleans hosted the last U.S.-based fair in 1984.

Joe Biden: U.S. will buy and donate 500M more COVID-19 vaccine doses for the world

Biden: U.S. will buy and donate 500M more COVID-19 vaccine doses for the world

Brings total American commitment to more than 1 billion

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President Joe Biden meets with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Intercontinental Barclay Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

President Biden will announce Wednesday the U.S. is purchasing an additional 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to give to the rest of the world, bringing its total commitment to more than 1 billion shots.

Mr. Biden will also press other global leaders to “step up” and do more during a COVID-19 summit that he is hosting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, according to a senior administration official.

“For every one shot we have administered in this country to date, we are now donating three shots to other countries. One shot here today, three shots committed for the world,” the official told reporters. “No other country, or group of countries, have come close to that.”

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The administration and the World Health Organization say the coronavirus will be a danger so long as swaths of the global population remain unvaccinated. The virus has shown an ability to mutate into more dangerous forms and ping from one corner of the world to another.

Mr. Biden earlier this year pledged to provide roughly 100 million doses of multiple vaccines to other countries, including supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine that hasn’t been approved in the U.S. but is widely used in other countries.

He followed that up by purchasing 500 million doses from Pfizer ahead of the Group of Seven nations summit over the summer. Wednesday’s announcement will double that purchase, bringing the total donation to around 1.1 billion.

Pfizer’s vaccine is administered in two doses, so 1 billion doses are enough to fully vaccinate 500 million people. 

The administration did not disclose a total cost for the vaccines but said Pfizer is providing them at a “not-for-profit” price.

Officials said the Pfizer doses will be made in the U.S. and shipped out from January to September of next year. It said tens of millions of other doses have been donated this year.

“We have now shipped nearly 160 million of these doses to 100 countries around the world — from Peru to Pakistan, Sri Lanka to Sudan, El Salvador to Ethiopia,” the senior administration official said. “To put this into perspective, the United States has now delivered more free doses than every other country in the world combined.”

Mr. Biden is pushing global leaders to step up even as he struggles to lift vaccination rates at home. 

Roughly 55% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated and around a quarter of eligible Americans have not received any doses, prompting Mr. Biden to push employer-based mandates to force people into getting the shots.

The administration insists it has enough supply to take care of the U.S. and help the world, even as it looks to provide booster shots for the fully vaccinated.

Congress commits to helping victims of mysterious attacks causing Havana syndrome

Congress commits to helping victims of mysterious attacks causing Havana syndrome

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Photo edited for Best of 2020 list. more >

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By Joseph Clark

The Washington Times

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The House unanimously passed legislation Tuesday to provide financial support to victims of suspected directed energy attacks, which have targeted U.S. officials around the globe, including on American soil.

The bill, known as the Helping Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks (HAVANA) Act of 2021 — the attacks cause what’s known as Havana syndrome — passed unanimously in the Senate in June and now proceeds to the White House for President Biden’s expected signature.

The attacks which began targeting U.S. Embassy staff in Cuba in 2016, can cause debilitating symptoms including vertigo and headaches that can last years. Many suspect the attacks are from a microwave or directed energy weapon.

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Some estimate that more than 200 officials have been targeted in the attacks, which have targeted officials from the State Department, the Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Since the initial diagnoses in 2016, the number of U.S. officials around the globe reporting symptoms, including on U.S. soil, has continued to swell.

In May, reports revealed information about two U.S. officials struck by Havana syndrome near the White House.

In August, a “possible anomalous health incident” which some believed to be a Havana syndrome case reported by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi briefly delayed Vice President Kamala D. Harris’ trip to Vietnam.

Earlier this month, a CIA officer reported symptoms while traveling in India at the same time CIA Director William Burns was in the country.

The State Department, CIA, and Pentagon have all started investigations into the suspected attacks, and the National Security Council is leading a broad inquiry into the attacks across government agencies.

No official determination has been made as to the cause or who may be behind it, but some lawmakers have said they suspect the attacks have been by Russia.

In the lead-up to President Biden’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin this summer, Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, called on Mr. Biden to press Mr. Putin on the attacks.

“I hope that when President Biden meets with President Putin, that he will ask President Putin about these attacks, that he will grill him about them to see if the Russians are responsible,” said Ms. Collins, a member of the Senate intelligence committee and a sponsor of the Havana Act.

Marc Polymeropoulos, a senior CIA case officer who retired in 2019 after battling debilitating symptoms stemming from a suspected directed energy attack while in his hotel room during a routine trip to Moscow in 2017, told The Times in June that he has little doubt Russia is behind the attacks.

Rep. Adam Schiff, House intelligence committee chairman and another bill sponsor, called the legislation an important step in assisting victims of the attacks as the U.S. government continues to determine who is responsible.

“There is no higher priority than protecting our people. None,” the California Democrat said Tuesday on Twitter. “As we examine the cause of the illness known as Havana Syndrome, we must ensure those impacted get the care they deserve.”

Iranian president taunts Biden, Trump in United Nations speech

Iranian president taunts Biden, Trump in United Nations speech

'Sanctions are the U.S.'s new way of war with nations of the world'

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In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Ebrahim Raisi attends a live televised interview with state-run TV, at the presidency office in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office … more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Updated: 4:27 p.m. on
Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Tuesday took sharp aim at the U.S. in a speech before the United Nations, saying America’s pledge to end wars is hollow because Washington is using sanctions as a mechanism of war.

In pre-recorded remarks from Tehran, Mr. Raisi lashed out at President Biden and his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, by mocking their oft-repeated mantras.

“Today, the world doesn’t care about ‘America First’ or ‘America is Back,’ he said.

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Mr. Raisi made his remarks after Mr. Biden addressed the world body. In his speech, Mr. Biden called on nations to cooperate to solve problems such as COVID-19, terrorism and climate change.

The U.S. president urged the world to turn the page from military conflict and begin an era of “relentless diplomacy,” solving problems at the negotiating table instead of through armed conflict.

Mr. Raisi, who took the oath of office last month, said the U.S. has no right to lecture anyone. He accused the U.S. of waging war through diplomatic means to keep its hands clean.

“Sanctions are the U.S.’s new way of war with nations of the world,” he said.

Mr. Trump imposed sanctions in 2018 in response to Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. He also pulled the U.S. out of a nuclear pact with Iran that was struck under President Obama.

Mr. Biden has sought to salvage the Obama-era deal, but talks have stalled.

Mr. Raisi says he also wants to reach an agreement to revive the deal, but he didn’t hold back criticism Tuesday.

He mocked the withdrawal from Afghanistan and accused the U.S. of trying to transform the world.

“What is seen in our region today proves that not only the hegemonist and the idea of hegemony, but also the project of imposing Westernized identity have failed miserably,” Mr. Raisi said. “Today, the U.S. does not get to exit Iraq and Afghanistan but is expelled.”

Joe Biden stresses international cooperation ahead of meeting with UN secretary general

Biden stresses international cooperation ahead of meeting with UN secretary general

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President Joe Biden speaks at a meeting with business leaders and CEOs on the COVID-19 response in the library of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Monday, September 20, 2021

President Biden on Monday hammered home the theme of his two-day trip to the United Nations by stressing the need for international cooperation ahead of his meeting with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“The enormity of the task already ahead for each one of us and it’s real, but the vision of the United Nations has never been short on ambition,” Mr. Biden said moments before the meeting.

“Ambition matters,” Mr. Biden continued, calling on world leaders to work together and deliver “economic prosperity, peace and security” across the globe.

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Mr. Guterres praised the president for his “strong commitment” to the United Nations and multilateralism.

“The cooperation between the U.S. and the UN is a fundamental pillar of the work of the UN,” he said. “The U.S. with its strong commitment to human rights, its strong commitment to peace and security around the world, its strong commitment to development, cooperation and now, with your leadership, a very strong commitment on climate change, the U.S. represents a fundamental pillar of our activity,” he said.

“And I’d like to assure you, Mr. President, that we want to deepen that cooperation,” he said.

Neither responded to questions shouted by the press.

Mr. Biden’s meeting with Mr. Guterres comes ahead of his first speech as president to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday morning.

The president will talk about how ending the 20-year war in Afghanistan has opened up a new era of “intensive diplomacy” with nations working together to solve issues such as COVID-19, climate change and infrastructure.

Mr. Biden also will hammer home his message that “America is back” after what he has previously described as the unreliable leadership of his predecessor, Donald Trump. That message has been dented, however, by his foreign policy missteps.

The president ignored pleas from other nations to extend his self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline to exit Afghanistan, and France is furious after the U.S. undercut a multi-billion submarine pact it had struck with Australia.

Reaction from world leaders after Mr. Biden’s speech could suggest whether they are willing to move on or still harbor grievances over how those events played out.

U.S., Australia, U.K. to share nuclear submarine technology under new security pact

U.S., Australia, U.K. to share nuclear submarine technology under new security pact

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President Joe Biden, joined virtually by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, speaks about a national security initiative from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

President Biden on Wednesday announced a historical security partnership between the United States, Britain and Australia that will allow the three nations to share defense technologies, including plans for nuclear submarines.

The trilateral security pact, known as AUKUS, will enable the three countries’ technical, strategic, and naval resources. It will include sharing artificial intelligence, undersea systems, cyber and long-range strike capabilities,

“Our nations will update and enhance our shared ability to take on the threats of the 21st century just as we did in the 20th century — together,” Mr. Biden said at a White House event.

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The alliance bolsters all three countries’ presence in the Pacific, where all three nations are concerned about China’s expansion ambitions.

China is said to possess six nuclear attack submarines and is planning to expand its nuclear-powered naval fleet over the next several years. Beijing also has scores of conventional submarines, which are powered by nuclear reactors.

In recent days, Beijing has sailed naval ships near Japanese and American waters in an effort to assert its dominance.

“We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve because the future of each of our nations, and indeed, the world, depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead,” Mr. Biden said.

Under the deal, Australia will abandon its $90 billion submarine deal with France and, instead, acquire an American-made nuclear power submarine, Australian newspapers reported Wednesday. The deal had been in trouble for a while, plagued by increasing costs, design changes, and delays, according to Australian media outlets.

“To help deliver the stability and security our region needs, we must now take our partnership to a new level,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in virtual remarks broadcast by the White House.

Australia and the U.S. have long been allies, but this pact elevates it to the level of the United Kingdom as one of America’s foremost military partners.

For the U.S., the deal gives it a powerful weapon in the Pacific to attempt to contain Chinese military expansion. The Navy this summer deployed its three most powerful submarines to the Pacific amid concerns about the Chinese.

However, there is nothing in the pact that specifically mentions China and none of the three leaders mentioned Beijing in the remarks.

A White House official told reporters the alliance was not aimed at one specific country, but rather about “upgrading capabilities.”

The U.S. and Britain have shared U.S. nuclear submarine technology for decades under an agreement aimed at keeping the old Soviet Union in check. With Australia in the mix, all three countries have bolstered their ability to operate in the Pacific, creating a powerful alliance.

U.S. officials have long sought to build partnerships with other nations to push back against China. One group, known as the Quad, is composed of the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India. It is aimed at stopping Chinese aggression.

All four Quad nations will meet at the White House on Sept. 24, for the first-ever in-person meeting of the group.

Biden, world leaders to meet, discuss climate change

Biden, world leaders to meet, discuss climate change

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President Joe Biden, listens as he is joined virtually by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to speak about a national security initiative from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. … more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

President Biden will meet virtually with other world leaders to discuss how to combat climate change, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

Mr. Biden is reviving the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, an Obama-era initiative designed to facilitate talks among world leaders to address climate change.

The official declined to say which other leaders would participate in the discussion. Under former President Obama, 17 countries, including the U.S., Europe, China, India and Australia, participated.

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The event, which will not be livestreamed according to the official, is set for Friday.

At the meeting, Mr. Biden is expected to link climate change to the economy and explain how taking action to strengthen the climate will improve economies around the world, according to the official.

A key goal will be to cut global greenhouse gas emissions, the official said.

The meeting will be held ahead of the COP 26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, later this year, which will focus on global warming. 

Conservative GOP House caucus calls on Biden, Austin, Milley to resign

Conservative GOP House caucus calls on Biden, Austin, Milley to resign

White House, Pentagon under fire for chaotic Afghan endgame

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Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., and other members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus call for the removal of President Joe Biden over the close of war in Afghanistan, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott … more >

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By Mica Soellner and Joseph Clark

The Washington Times

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

A leading group of conservative House Republicans are calling on President Biden and key members of his Cabinet to resign in the wake of the U.S.’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus returned to Capitol Hill Tuesday while on recess to propose three resolutions calling for the resignations of Mr. Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.

“America faces a great division coming into this era of unspeakable grief as we look upon the failure of our executive branch to execute a well-planned withdrawal of American forces, citizens, allies and weaponry in Afghanistan,” said Rep. Clay Higgins, Louisiana Republican, who introduced the resolutions. “This administration has abandoned its oath to the American people, and it is the right thing to do for President Biden, Secretary Austin, and Chairman Milley to step down.”

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Mr. Higgins was joined by 25 Republican co-sponsors in the House.

Representatives from the Pentagon did not provide a comment on the measures. The White House was not immediately available to respond to The Washington Times request for comment.

Last week, two members of the caucus, Reps. Ralph Norman of South Carolina and Andy Harris of Maryland, introduced articles of impeachment against Mr. Blinken for “high crimes and misdemeanors” in the wake of a suicide bombing targeting the airport in Kabul which killed 13 U.S. service members and more than 170 Afghan civilians, amid a growing outcry from lawmakers over the chaotic withdrawal and the swift victory of the hard-line Taliban insurgency.

Mr. Norman and Mr. Harris said “inexcusable failures” on behalf of Mr. Blinken led to the lives lost in Thursday’s terrorist attack in Kabul and “set a horrible precedent on the international stage.”

While sharply critical, the majority of lawmakers have so far stopped short of calling for anyone’s job. The Freedom Caucus resolution that Mr. Biden himself should step down marks a significant escalation in rhetoric on the day after the U.S.’s longest war came to an end.

While House Republicans remain incensed with the Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal and by the fact that U.S. citizens remain in Afghanistan after all troops have departed, the party’s leaders are far from on-board with the demand for mass resignations at this point.

When asked directly about seeking impeachment proceedings, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, told reporters Monday that Republicans are focused for now on demanding a plan for the evacuation of those left behind.

“Look, right now you’ve got American citizens that were told to go to the airport that are wondering what are they supposed to do,” Mr. McCarthy said. “Our only focus should be on them.” 

The resolutions also stand little chance with Democrats in the majority in both the House and Senate.

But House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, told The Washington Times Tuesday that he thinks the measures will gain steam, even among some Democrats.

“I think we’re looking for a win,” Mr. Biggs said. “I think it’s possible that we could get enough Democrats to come over with regard to [the impeachment of] Blinken, for instance. And I do believe that with a unified voice, outside one or two members of the Republican conference, you have a unified voice on the resignations as well.”

“They’re angry,” he said, speaking of his House colleagues. “And so we’re providing an outlet for them. And hopefully, we can get a win.” 

House Republicans demand plan to bring home Americans left behind in Afghanistan

House Republicans demand plan to bring home Americans left behind in Afghanistan

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. McCarthy and other Republican members of Congress criticized President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the close of the war in Afghanistan. … more >

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By Joseph Clark

The Washington Times

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

House Republicans on Tuesday demanded President Biden come up with a plan for recovering U.S. citizens left behind in Afghanistan.

About two dozen House Republicans, many of whom served in Afghanistan, gathered at the Capitol and called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reconvene Congress to address the desperate situation in Afghanistan.

“Never in my lifetime would I believe that America would have an administration knowingly make a decision to leave Americans behind,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, said at the event. “Whereas just two weeks ago, the president promised this nation that he would not leave until every single American was out.”

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More than 100 Americans attempting to flee Afghanistan remained in the Taliban-controlled country after the last of the U.S. troops departed Monday, though Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the administration remained committed to bringing them home in the coming weeks.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, has promised hearings on the Afghanistan pullout after the House returns on Sept. 27 from extended summer vacation.

The group of GOP lawmakers wanted the House to take up a bill introduced last week by Rep. Mike Gallagher, Wisconsin Republican, which would have prohibited President Biden from withdrawing U.S. troops until all U.S. citizens are evacuated. The bill would also require the administration to submit to Congress a report on its efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens from Afghanistan.

The lawmakers sought recognition during Tuesday’s pro forma session on the House floor, but Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who was presiding over the session, gaveled the session closed before ceding the floor to the Republicans.

“Now is not the time to hide,” Mr. McCarthy said. “We are a coequal branch. Now is the time for leadership in Congress. And we will lead.”

The House returned for two days last week to vote on adopting the $3.5 trillion budget paving the way for a vote on Congress‘ infrastructure spending but then adjourned until mid-September.

“It is time for Congress to step up because of the administration bungling this withdrawal,” Mr. Gallagher said. “This is a matter of life and death. We don’t leave our people behind.”

Newly released court documents suggest FBI aware of Saudi link to 9/11

9/11 families: New details raise concerns about Saudi links to attacks

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In this Sept. 11, 2001, file photo, smoke billows from World Trade Center Tower 1 and flames explode from Tower 2 as it is struck by United Airlines Flight 175, in New York. (AP Photo/Chao Soi Cheong, File) more >

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By Joseph Clark

The Washington Times

Monday, August 30, 2021

Family members of 9/11 victims say court documents released Saturday confirm long-standing concerns that the U.S. government knows more than has been made public about links between Saudi Arabia and the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In a two-page declaration provided to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in June, former American Airlines pilot and Federal Aviation Administration Safety Inspector Robert Brown said that in 2012, FBI agents presented him with a drawing of a plane and an equation — ostensibly a diagram working out the rate of descent necessary to fly an airliner into a building — that he was told came from a raid on the home of a Saudi man associated with two of the 9/11 hijackers.

The 9/11 families, who in their lawsuit accuse the Saudi government of complicity in the attacks, are pushing the Biden administration ahead of next month’s 20th anniversary to declassify information and evidence the FBI has gathered in the years after the publication of the official 9/11 Commission Report — including information used in the questioning of Mr. Brown. 

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Past investigations, including the 9/11 Commission Report, have outlined ties between Saudi nationals and some of the hijackers, but have not established the Saudi government was directly involved. The Saudis, citing the 9/11 Report findings, have denied any involvement in the attacks.

In the declaration released Saturday, Mr. Brown, who had experience as a commercial pilot flying one of the hijacked routes, said the FBI told him in 2012 the drawing was taken in a raid on the home of Omar al Bayoumi, a Saudi national described in the 9/11 Commission Report as a business student in the United States who was “supported by a private contractor for the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority, where Bayoumi had worked for over 20 years.”

The commission concluded in 2004 that there was no evidence Mr. al Bayoumi “believed in violent extremism or knowingly aided extremist groups,” but the FBI kept digging in the years that followed. 

Now the 9/11 families want President Biden to open the books on those investigations.

“We commend Captain Brown for standing with us in our pursuit of the truth and for coming forward with this critical piece of evidence that demonstrates the direct corroboration between a Saudi official and the 9/11 hijackers, said Brett Eagleson, co-founder of 9/11 Community United, an organization that advocates for 9/11 victims and their families. “This revelation concerning Bayoumi’s drawing of an aircraft on a graph to calculate distance to a ground target like the Pentagon demonstrates a close operational link and is the closest evidence I have seen to a smoking gun regarding the 9/11 attacks on our nation.”

The family members say the U.S. government has been privy to details linking the Saudi government to the attacks for years but has kept the details from the public.

“Compounding this critical piece of evidence is the disturbing realization of how much has been kept behind closed doors and intentionally hidden by our own government about the worst terrorist attack in our country’s history, Mr. Eagleson said. “Why won’t the FBI produce this drawing to the American people?”

Saturday’s release comes amid growing calls for the Biden administration to declassify more documents.

Earlier this month, Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut introduced The September 11th Transparency Act of 2021, which would require a full declassification review of the 9/11 investigation and justification for any decisions to keep details out of the public eye going forward.

Republican Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Chuck Grassley of Iowa also have signed on to the legislation.

“For 20 years 9/11 families and survivors have worked to hold the perpetrators of this attack responsible and bring them to justice,” Mr. Menendez, New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a press conference. “Yet year after year, their own federal government has refused to declassify documents that could shed light on any role that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or individuals from Saudi Arabia or from any country may have played in the 9/11 attacks.”

Previous attempts to uncover Saudi involvement in 9/11 have been met with pushback by previous administrations in an effort, some say, to prevent potentially explosive information from being disclosed and to preserve the U.S.-Saudi relationship.

In May, 22 members of Congress led by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland challenging the previous administrations’ assertion of “state secret privilege” in blocking declassification of documents that many believe expose Saudi involvement in the attacks.

In June Reps. Ted Deutch, Florida Democrat, and Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to release the documents.

Earlier this month, the FBI signaled that it would review documents related to its 9/11 investigation for possible disclosure.

Family members say Saturday’s release adds further to speculation that the U.S. government has been covering up key details about Saudi links to the attack.

“While this link between a Saudi aviation official who is known to have assisted 9/11 hijackers Hazmi and Mihdhar and the 9/11 hijacker flight planning materials is new to us, our government has known about it for years and chose to keep it from not only the 9/11 community, but the American public,” said Dennis McGinley whose brother Daniel perished in the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Mr. McGinley called on President Biden to come forward with the full details about any links the Saudi government had to the attack.

“Ahead of the 20th anniversary, we implore President Biden to put an end to this pattern of concealing evidence and protecting Saudi Arabia to the detriment of American citizens and our country’s safety,” he said. “After nearly 20 years, asking for the full truth of what happened to our loved ones is not asking too much.”

Hundreds of U.S. citizens still in Afghanistan ahead of Tuesday deadline

Hundreds of U.S. citizens still in Afghanistan ahead of Tuesday deadline

Pentagon shows no sign that Biden pullout will be extended

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Families evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, walk through the terminal before boarding a bus after they arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, Va., on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) more >

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By Mike Glenn

The Washington Times

Monday, August 30, 2021

Hundreds of Americans are believed to still be in Afghanistan but U.S. officials are giving no indication that the massive U.S.-led evacuation effort in Kabul will be extended past President Biden’s self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline.

The operation, based at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), was to help as many people as possible escape from Afghanistan now that the hard-line Taliban are once again in control of the country, Pentagon officials said.

“While operations in Afghanistan will conclude soon, the [Department of Defense] effort to support the interagency [mission] is ongoing,” Army Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, of the Joint Staff, told reporters on Monday.

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Pentagon officials on Monday released the latest evacuation figures coming from Afghanistan. Since the operation began, more than 122,000 people have been flown out of the country. That number includes 5,400 American citizens who were in Afghanistan when the U.S.-backed government and army collapsed during the Taliban’s lightning-fast advance.

Pentagon officials said there will be a government effort to help Americans get out of Afghanistan after the withdrawal is complete on Tuesday.

“The State Department is going to continue to work across many different levers to facilitate that transportation,” chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. “Right now, we do not anticipate a military role.”

With reports of Americans being unable to make it past the Taliban’s cordon around the airfield, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said President Biden should extend the withdrawal timeline.

“I cannot believe that our president has watched the human suffering that has resulted from this botched process and decided to double-down on his arbitrary, unrealistic deadline — knowing that he is leaving, quite literally, countless Americans and Afghans who helped us, behind,” Mr. Inhofe said in a statement. “The decisions of the Biden administration leading up to this disastrous evacuation will scar a generation of Afghan women and children — if they are lucky enough to survive.”

The situation on the ground at Kabul‘s only international airport remains tense in the waning days of the massive airlift. On Monday in Kabul, militants fired at least five rockets at the airport only days after a suicide bomber killed 13 U.S. service members and injured 18 others.

Three of the rockets didn’t make it to the airport at all while one struck the airfield without effect. Troops destroyed one of the rockets using a weapon known as a C-RAM — Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar. First used by the Navy as an air defense weapon on ships, the trailer-mounted C-RAM detects, tracks and destroys targets using its rapid-fire Gatling gun.

On Sunday, U.S. officials launched a strike against suspected ISIS-K militants that may have killed innocent civilians. Pentagon officials said they are continuing to investigate but aren’t in a position to dispute claims that innocent bystanders may have been hit.

“No military on the face of the earth works harder to avoid civilian casualties than the United States military,” Mr. Kirby said. “Nobody wants to see innocent lives taken.”

Rep. Boebert: Slain Wyoming Marine’s ‘blood is on Joe Biden’s hands’

Rep. Lauren Boebert: Slain Wyoming Marine’s ‘blood is on Joe Biden’s hands’

Colorado Republican speaks at Steamboat Institute Freedom Conference

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In this July 29, 2021, file photo, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., speaks at a news conference held by members of the House Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) **FILE** more >

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By Valerie Richardson

The Washington Times

Friday, August 27, 2021

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado | Rep. Lauren Boebert, Colorado Republican, lashed out Friday at President Biden after she spoke to a Colorado mother whose son was among the Marines killed in Afghanistan on Thursday, saying that “his blood is on Joe Biden’s hands.”

In remarks at the Steamboat Institute Freedom Conference, Ms. Boebert said she talked with a woman in her western Colorado district who lost her son in the Thursday terrorist attack at the Kabul airport that left at least 13 military members dead and 18 injured.

“I just had one of the most disturbing phone calls I’ve ever experienced in my entire life,” Ms. Boebert said. “I had to pull the car over and speak to a new Gold Star mother in my district. Her son since [he was] 8 years old has spoken about serving our country.

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“But yesterday was inexcusable. Yesterday, he was one of the 13 Marines that we lost in vain in Afghanistan.

“And I make no apology after hearing the voice of his mother in saying that his blood is on Joe Biden’s hands,” Ms. Boebert said. “Her son was murdered yesterday because of this poor execution of getting our troops, our American citizens out of Afghanistan. This has been disgusting and shameful.”

The names of the 13 slain service members have not been released, but Ms. Boebert’s office said the Marine was Rylee McCollum of Wyoming and that his mother lives in the congresswoman’s district.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday ordered the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff until Monday to honor Lance Cpl. McCollum, who was 20.

“I’m devastated to learn Wyoming lost one of our own in yesterday’s terrorist attack in Kabul,” Mr. Gordon said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Rylee McCollum of Bondurant. Jennie and I, along with all of Wyoming and the entire country thank Rylee for his service.”

.@laurenboebert says she spoke today to a new #GoldStar mother, who is part of her district. This mother’s son was one do true Marines who died in the #KabulAttack this week. #freedomconference

— The Steamboat Institute (@Steamboat_Inst) August 27, 2021

Ms. Boebert drew enthusiastic applause after announcing that her office is drafting articles of impeachment “for everyone who is involved in this,” referring to the botched U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

She urged House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to bring House Republicans back even if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to do so before the chamber’s recess ends Sept. 20.

Mr. McCarthy called Thursday on the House to reconvene before President Biden’s self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline to evacuate Americans, which Pelosi deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill dismissed on Twitter as “empty stunts & distraction.”

The House returned on Monday and Tuesday to pass the $3.5 trillion budget framework and infrastructure plan, then went back into recess until Sept. 20.

“If we can be called back into session to bring about trillions and trillions of debt to the national debt, to talk about so-called infrastructure and a sham budget reconciliation, we damn sure can be called back to Congress for this,” Ms. Boebert said to applause.

The 13th annual conference at the Park Hyatt drew 370 attendees, the largest crowd in the conservative institute’s history. The two-day event ends Saturday.

Also speaking were Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, Woodson Center founder Robert L. Woodson, economist Arthur Laffer, University of California Berkeley law professor John Yoo, and retired Vanderbilt University professor Carol Swain.

Joe Biden’s political fate tied to Taliban

Biden’s political fate tied to Taliban

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President Joe Biden pauses as he listens to a question about the bombings at the Kabul airport that killed at least 12 U.S. service members, from the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, in Washington. (AP … more >

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By Seth McLaughlin

The Washington Times

Thursday, August 26, 2021

President Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal — and along with it, his own political fate — now rests in the hands of the Taliban, which just spent the last two decades at war with the U.S. and now finds itself in control and better armed than ever.

The awkward embrace of Mr. Biden and the militant group born from a medieval Islamic ideology came into sharp focus Thursday after suicide bombers and gunmen struck at the remaining U.S. presence in Kabul. 

The attack, which intelligence officials were blaming on ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State, was just what Mr. Biden feared and why he said he had to stick with his end-of-month withdrawal plans.

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But it underscored just how much of his political future rests in others’ hands.

Richard Flanagan, a professor of American politics at the College of Staten Island, said Mr. Biden has put “all of his chips” on the Taliban.

“That must be a bad feeling because if they start shooting at these big cargo planes leaving from the city then my God it is going to be bad,” Mr. Flanagan said. “What if one of these crazy commanders gets off an anti-aircraft missile and takes down a plane?”

Speaking to reporters Thursday evening, Mr. Biden said the Taliban “are not good guys” and said he didn’t have a choice but to work with them, counting on them to secure the perimeter of the airport. 

“It’s in their self-interest that we leave when we say and that we get as many people out as we can,” he said. “It’s not a matter of trust, it’s a matter of mutual self-interest.”

Mr. Biden said even amid the attacks, 7,000 people were airlifted out of the country over 12 hours Thursday.

Mr. Biden also pointed to his predecessor, Donald Trump, who he said left him few good options when he struck a deal with the Taliban to remove U.S. troops last year in exchange for their cooperation.

Gordon Adams, a professor emeritus of U.S. foreign policy at American University, said Mr. Biden was put in the tough spot. He described the president’s relationship with the Taliban as a “mutual hostage situation” where both sides have more to gain from avoiding more chaos.

“If the Taliban looks crazy there are major problems for them in terms of diplomatic recognition and willingness of the international community to work with them — and God knows there are major economic and fiscal problems” in Afghanistan, he said. “They are as capable of calculating their interest than anybody else and probably better at it than they were 25 years ago when they took power.”

Mr. Adams said Mr. Biden’s competence is being tested in the court of public opinion, and “they do not look competent yet.”

“I suspect part of the motivation to hold to the withdrawal deadline is to say we want this to be done and we want this to be done as swiftly as we can do it,” he said. “It is not as much the Taliban forcing his hand as domestic politics.”

Besides, the faster it’s done, the faster it will be forgotten by voters.

“Political memories are short,” Mr. Adams said.

Democratic activists across the country are taking a wait-and-see approach before judging Mr. Biden, saying the Trump administration put him in a no-win situation.

“The prior president is the one who set this thing up and people realize that, but they are really hoping this doesn’t turn into a debacle and we get people out safely,” said Brett Niles, chair of the Linn County Iowa Democrats. “I wouldn’t want to be in President Biden’s position, but I think it is going to be a matter of you can’t succeed.”

The danger for Mr. Biden is that anyone left behind becomes an ongoing problem — and any future attack or reprisal that leaves dead an Afghan who assisted the U.S. war effort becomes a new reminder for the public.

Even before Thursday’s attack, images of chaos at the airport, and bodies falling from the undercarriage of a U.S. military cargo jet, had shocked the country and soured a public that had previously been giving the president an extended honeymoon. 

A USA Today survey released this week showed Mr. Biden’s overall job approval rating underwater, with 41% of Americans approving and 55% disapproving.

“If this withdrawal had worked out swimmingly, Biden would have been seen as a leader and he would have made great strides with independents going into 2022,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center. “Not only has the exact opposite happened with independents, but it has actually spilled into Democrats.”

The president also has seen what had been generally glowing coverage from the press deteriorate.

“As someone who’s covered the liberal media for multiple administrations, it’s been surreal to see so many of them hold a Democratic administration’s feet to the fire for a deadly and truly devastating humanitarian disaster,” said Chris Houck, of the Media Research Center. “One could say that some have tried to almost will the administration to a more wholesome response that’s willing to admit failure. But thus far, their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.”

Indeed, Mr. Biden seems a man alone.

His Afghanistan decision-making has two chief components: the self-imposed Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline and the way he has managed the pullout. Even senior Democrats in Washington who agree with the withdrawal decision have questioned the president’s handling of the pullout.

“The president must now commit to making sure that every American citizen and every one of our Afghan partners who assisted U.S. troops, seeking to leave Afghanistan can do so, even if our troops must remain past Aug. 31,” said Rep. Jim Langevin, a senior Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to accentuate the positive, pointing to the more than 100,000 people Mr. Biden says have been evacuated since late July.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, did say Congress deserves continued briefings on the situation and also renewed her admonition to lawmakers not to visit the region, saying they would not only be a distraction for U.S. forces but a “danger.”

Republicans were far more pointed about Thursday’s events.

“Mr. President, fix the mess you created,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Texas Republican, tweeted Thursday in response to the attacks. “Stop running from it. We are still at war. You didn’t ‘end the war,’ you just gave the enemy [a] new advantage.”

‘Fix the mess you created’: GOP blasts Biden for bungled Afghanistan pullout, deadly attack in Kabul

‘Fix the mess you created’: GOP blasts Biden for bungled Afghanistan pullout, deadly attack in Kabul

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President Joe Biden speaks about the situation in Afghanistan from the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) **FILE** more >

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By Joseph Clark and S.A. Miller

The Washington Times

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Republican lawmakers on Thursday intensified criticism of President Biden‘s withdrawal from Afghanistan after deadly terrorist attacks at the Kabul airport that killed at least 13 people, including U.S. service members.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw placed the blame squarely on Mr. Biden for the two separate explosions outside the airport.

“Mr. President, fix the mess you created,” the Texas Republican tweeted. “Stop running from it. We are still at war. You didn’t ‘end the war,’ you just gave the enemy new advantage.”

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Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, suggested that the blood of U.S. troops was on Mr. Biden‘s hands.

“Before President Biden ‘ended’ the US involvement in Afghanistan, the last Americans to die in battle were Army Sgts. 1st Class Javier Gutierrez and Antonio Rodriguez, on Feb. 8, 2020. Today, at least 4 more have been killed, and it, sadly, won’t be the last,” he tweeted.

Twitter was ablaze with Republican fury at Mr. Biden.

“President Biden‘s shameful handling of the withdrawal in Afghanistan has now led to U.S. personnel being wounded in a terrorist attack in Kabul,” wrote Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Navy veteran representing a Texas district.

Biden must immediately hold the Taliban accountable,” tweeted Rep. Mark Green, an Army combat veteran from Tennessee. “The 8/31 deadline must be extended indefinitely, the enemy who perpetrated this attack must be crushed & we must make clear: Any impediment to our ops will be met with the full force of the U.S. We will leave no man behind.”

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been critical of the president’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan and his handling of the pullout, which precipitated the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country.

The violence and mayhem outside Hamid Karzai International Airport raised the tenor of the criticism, immediately at least among Republicans. The attacks at the airport also further complicate the U.S. effort to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies ahead of Mr. Biden‘s Tuesday deadline to complete a military exit.

Republicans have begun calling on the administration to expand operations beyond the airport in Kabul, the last remaining U.S. stronghold, to regain control.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, called on the administration to retake the former U.S. airbase in Bagram approximately 40 miles north of Kabul. The U.S. pulled out of Bagram in July, leaving the base in the hands of the since-defeated Afghan security force.

“I urge the Biden Administration to reestablish our presence in Bagram as an alternative to the Kabul airport so that we do not leave our fellow citizens and thousands of Afghan allies behind,” Mr. Graham said. “It is not a capability problem, but a problem of will.”

Rep. Jake Ellzey, Texas Republican, and former Navy pilot has been specifically critical of the administration’s decision to turn over the more capable Bagram airfield to the ANSF. He said the decision left the administration with few options but to coordinate the massive evacuation from the civilian airport in Kabul that has only a single runway.

Mr. Biden, earlier this week, confirmed that the U.S. would adhere to the end-of-month deadline for a full U.S. withdrawal a day after CIA Director William Burns met with Taliban officials. Mr. Biden cited a growing terrorist threat emanating from the Islamic State of Khorasan, or ISIS-K, who he said would aim to target U.S. troops.

The terrorist group, which is believed to be at odds with and uncontrolled by the Taliban, has been blamed for the two attacks at the airport.

‘I understand the frustration’: McCarthy shifts criticism to Biden for two lawmakers’ trip to Kabul

‘I understand the frustration’: McCarthy shifts criticism to Biden for two lawmakers’ trip to Kabul

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks during his weekly news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) more >

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By Mica Soellner

The Washington Times

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday said it was President Biden’s fault that two Congress members took an unannounced trip to Kabul airport to see for themselves the U.S. evacuation effort.

Mr. McCarthy said he understood why the lawmakers — Republican Rep Peter Meijer of Michigan and Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts — took matters into their own hands to bring oversight to the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.

“It’s not the best idea to go there, but I understand their frustration by the lack of any answers from this administration,” Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, said at a press conference.

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He faulted the White House for not revealing the number of Americans still stranded in the country since the Taliban took over, saying that type of information drove Mr. Meijer and Mr. Moulton to take action.

“They’re both veterans. They’re both frustrated. They have an administration that won’t tell them the answers to how many Americans are left, or those Afghans that probably worked with them and helped them,” Mr. McCarthy said.

Earlier, Mr. Meijer and Mr. Moulton were criticized by Pentagon officials who said they distracted troops from the mission of evacuating Americans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also said she did not think it was a good idea for the two lawmakers to travel to Afghanistan at this time.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, wrote a “Dear Colleague” letter shortly after reports of the trip on Tuesday, warning members to follow advisories by the Defense and State departments not to travel into the region.

Mr. Meijer and Mr. Moulton defended their decision to go by saying they wanted to oversee evacuation efforts, adding that they took safety precautions ahead of time.

The Biden administration is scrambling to evacuate remaining U.S. military personnel from the country by an Aug. 31 deadline.

President Biden said Tuesday that more than 70,000 people have been evacuated from the country since mid-August.

Afghanistan craters Biden approval rating

Afghanistan craters Biden approval rating

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A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Taliban fighters entered the outskirts of the Afghan capital on Sunday, further tightening their grip on the country as panicked workers fled government offices and … more >

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By Seth McLaughlin

The Washington Times

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

President Biden’s approval rating has plummeted amid the unfolding mess in Afghanistan.

A new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll showed that 41% of voters approve of Mr. Biden’s performance, and 55% disapprove.

“Today, President Biden‘s overall approval has taken a turn for the worse due to his awful job performance rating on Afghanistan,” David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center, told USA Today. “His approval on immigration and the economy are also upside down. The only issue keeping him remotely in the game is his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, where he is barely at 50%.”

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By a 53% to 38% margin, most Americans supported the decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but 62% disapproved of the way the administration handled the pullout.

Mr. Biden had enjoyed solid approval ratings for much of the year, but public opinion has shifted quickly since the Taliban’s stunning takeover of Afghanistan.

He’s also taken some lumps on immigration, and the economy.

The USA Today-Suffolk University poll, conducted Aug. 19-23, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

G-7 grapples with Afghanistan, an afterthought not long ago

G-7 grapples with Afghanistan, an afterthought not long ago

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By Matthew Lee

Associated Press

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two months ago, the leaders of the world’s seven major industrialized democracies met at the height of summer on England’s southeast coast. It was a happy occasion: the first in-person summit of the Group of Seven nations in two years due to the coronavirus pandemic and the welcomed appearance of President Biden and his “America is back” message on matters ranging from comity to COVID-19 to climate change.

On Tuesday, those same seven leaders will meet again in virtual format confronted by a resurgence in the pandemic, more dire news on climate change and, most immediately and perhaps importantly, Afghanistan. The country’s burgeoning refugee crisis, the collapse of its government and fears of a resurgence in Afghan-based terrorism have left the G-7 allies scrambling and threaten the unity of the bloc.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the host of the June summit in the English resort town of Cornwall, is now reconvening the leaders for crisis talks on Afghanistan amid widespread unhappiness about Biden’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal. Complaints have come from Britain, France, Germany and others in the G-7, which includes only one non-NATO member, Japan.

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Despite Biden’s April announcement that the U.S. would completely withdraw from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the central Asian nation was almost an afterthought when the G-7 met in June.

COVID-19, China and climate change dominated the agenda. And expectations for Biden’s impending summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin were at the top of people’s tongues.

The leaders put Afghanistan as number 57 out of 70 points in their final 25-page communique -– behind Ukraine, Belarus and Ethiopia. Afghanistan didn’t even feature in the 1½-page summary of the document. NATO had already signed off on the U.S. withdrawal and all that appeared to be left was the completion of an orderly withdrawal and hopes for a peace deal between the Afghan government and Taliban.

“We call on all Afghan parties to reduce violence and agree on steps that enable the successful implementation of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire and to engage fully with the peace process. In Afghanistan, a sustainable, inclusive political settlement is the only way to achieve a just and durable peace that benefits all Afghans,” the leaders said, without a hint of urgency.

“We are determined to maintain our support for the Afghan government to address the country’s urgent security and humanitarian needs, and to help the people of Afghanistan, including women, young people and minority groups, as they seek to preserve hard-won rights and freedoms,” they said.

But as summer swings into fall, those hopes have been dashed.

Johnson and others, including French President Emmanuel Macron, are pushing Biden to extend his self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces in order to ensure the evacuation of all foreign nationals as well as Afghans who worked for or otherwise supported the American-led NATO operation that vanquished the Taliban in 2001 and has now accepted defeat.

On the eve of the meeting, the White House said Biden and Johnson had spoken by phone and “discussed the ongoing efforts by our diplomatic and military personnel to evacuate their citizens, local staff, and other vulnerable Afghans” as well as “the importance of close coordination with allies and partners in managing the current situation and forging a common approach to Afghanistan policy.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said she expected questions about the Afghanistan evacuation timeline to be part of the G-7 meeting. Psaki would not predict any announcements from the meeting but said the focus would be to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies as quickly as possible.

White House aides have said they think the meeting could grow contentious, as U.S. allies have looked on with disapproval at the tumultuous American drawdown.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who has called the U.S. deal with the Taliban that set the deadline a “mistake,” struck an almost pleading tone Monday, saying that if Biden extended the operation “even by a day or two, that will give us a day or two more to evacuate people.”

Senior British military officers have expressed anger over the U.S. pullout, saying it exposes the hollowness of the trans-Atlantic “special relationship” – a phrase used since World War II to stress the bonds of history, friendship and shared diplomatic interests between London and Washington.

And the German government is expressing impatience with the pace of the evacuation effort. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the majority of local staff who worked for his country in Afghanistan haven’t yet been gotten out and called Tuesday’s G-7 meeting “very important” for discussing international access to the Kabul airport beyond Aug. 31.

Biden administration officials have refused to be pinned down about whether an extension is likely or even possible given the Taliban’s demand that all U.S. forces leave by the Aug. 31 deadline.

___

AP writer Jonathan Lemire in New York contributed to this report.

Joe Biden faces heat as Taliban threaten U.S. troops, armed Afghan resistance grows

Biden faces heat as Taliban threaten U.S. troops, armed Afghan resistance grows

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Monday, August 23, 2021

The Taliban on Monday threatened violence against any American troops who remain in Kabul past Aug. 31, while President Biden faced questions about whether the U.S. could or should be aiding thousands of Afghan resistance fighters now preparing for their own potentially bloody showdown with Taliban insurgents.

The two developments renewed pressure on a White House already up against withering criticism over its hasty Afghanistan withdrawal and the chaotic scramble it created to evacuate tens of thousands of civilian personnel and Afghan allies from the hard-line Islamist group now ruling the country.

Mr. Biden over the weekend expressed an “unwavering commitment” that U.S. forces would stay at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul as long as it takes to complete that mission, even if it means remaining in Afghanistan past his self-imposed Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.

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But the Taliban‘s tolerance for the American presence and rescue mission has already worn thin. Top leaders of the militant group made clear Monday that they expect Mr. Biden to stick to his original timetable and warned of “consequences” if he does not.

“It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in an interview with Sky News. “If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations, the answer is no. Or there would be consequences.”

However, several Democratic lawmakers emerged from a Monday evening briefing skeptical that such a deadline could be met. Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat and House intelligence panel chairman, said he thinks “it’s very unlikely.”

“Given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of [Special Immigrant Visa holders], the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders, women leaders. It’s hard for me to imagine all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month,” Mr. Schiff added.

Troops under fire

The evacuation mission at the Kabul airport is growing increasingly dangerous. U.S. forces are operating inside the airport while Taliban fighters run checkpoints on the streets around the facility, often aggressively managing crowds trying to reach the entrances.

Elements of the former U.S.-trained Afghan military were also involved. Although the military collapsed as the Taliban took over Kabul last week, a small contingent of Afghan security forces remained to assist the U.S. military-run mission inside the airport.

U.S. and Afghan troops early Monday engaged in a shootout with a man who opened fire on forces guarding the airport entrance, Pentagon officials said. At least one member of the Afghan security forces was killed.

“The incident appeared to begin when an unknown hostile actor fired upon Afghan security forces involved in monitoring access to the gate,” Navy Capt. William Urban, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said in a statement. “The Afghans returned fire, and in keeping with their right of self-defense, so too did U.S. and coalition troops.”

It’s not clear whether the gunman was a member of the Islamic State group or another terrorist organization. The State Department warned Americans in Kabul over the weekend to stay away from the airport because of threats from Islamic State affiliates operating in Afghanistan.

Against that chaotic backdrop, the U.S. has dramatically ramped up the pace of evacuations. Over a roughly 24-hour period from Sunday to Monday, about 10,400 people flew out of Kabul aboard U.S. military flights. Thousands more were evacuated on non-U.S. aircraft.

It appears the vast majority of the evacuees are not Americans. Citing a government document it obtained, Yahoo News on Monday reported that only about 3,300 Americans had been flown out of Afghanistan since the evacuation effort began Aug. 15.

Pentagon officials did not confirm that number Monday but said “several thousand” Americans had been evacuated.

The Biden administration also has struggled to offer a clear estimate of exactly how many Americans are still in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials said about 37,000 people had been evacuated since the mission began.

The rapid pace Monday stood in stark contrast with the scene a week ago, when mobs of Afghans clung to the side of an American C-17 as it tried to take off and large crowds on the tarmac temporarily shut down all flights. Biden administration officials say communication between the U.S. and Taliban officials has led to a more stable scene at the airport.

“What we’ve seen is this deconfliction has worked well in terms of allowing access and flow as well as reducing the overall size of the crowds just outside the airport,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.

Indeed, the U.S. evacuation effort relies heavily on cooperation from the Taliban, which is operating numerous checkpoints outside the airport perimeter.

But it appears that some Americans can’t reach the airport. Mr. Kirby on Monday confirmed a second instance in which U.S. troops used helicopters to rescue Americans trapped elsewhere in Kabul.

He did not provide details on the operation or how many Americans were rescued. During the first such mission last week, at least 169 Americans were flown into the airport by helicopter from a hotel just outside the outer security walls.

‘A shot worth taking’

While Afghan civilians swarm the Kabul airport, thousands of Afghan resistance fighters have converged north of Kabul in Afghanistan‘s Panjshir Valley, which has become the headquarters for a well-organized anti-Taliban movement.

Regional experts say the resistance fighters represent Afghanistan‘s last hope to avoid a second round of full-blown Taliban rule. Analysts caution that the resistance fighters face steep odds of taking down a Taliban army now equipped with a cache of captured U.S. military equipment.

“It’s a long shot, but it’s certainly a shot worth taking,” Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Washington Times on Monday.

Mr. Roggio, who closely tracks the war in Afghanistan, estimated that the anti-Taliban forces could number as high as 10,000.

The growing resistance movement is led by Amrullah Saleh, who served as Afghanistan‘s vice president until the U.S.-backed government in Kabul collapsed two weeks ago. Another key player is Ahmad Massoud, whose father fought the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s and later joined the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.

Mr. Saleh, who remained in the country when President Ashraf Ghani fled during the Taliban‘s advance on Kabul, now claims to be Afghanistan‘s acting president.

If the Biden administration wanted to aid the anti-Taliban movement, then formally recognizing Mr. Saleh as the Afghan president would be a concrete first step, Mr. Roggio said.

“If we had a government that actually wanted to help the Afghan people not live under the Taliban, first of all, we would have never done what we did” with the chaotic withdrawal, he said. “But if we did … we would have recognized Saleh as the president, as the legitimate president of Afghanistan. We would honor treaty obligations, provide him with access to the funds of the Afghan government that are currently frozen. They would provide him with whatever they could to keep his forces in the field.”

But Mr. Roggio acknowledged that there is “zero political will” in the U.S. for such an effort.

“I recognize these are options no one wants,” he said.

The White House National Security Council did not respond to a request for comment on whether the administration was considering any formal recognition or support for resistance fighters.

Meanwhile, anti-Taliban forces early Monday claimed to have taken control of three districts in Afghanistan‘s Andarab Valley.

The Taliban claimed later in the day to have retaken the areas. Taliban officials have said they are hoping for a “peaceful solution” to the standoff between the two sides.

• Mike Glenn contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

Taliban leaders warn of ‘consequences’ if U.S. troops stay past Aug. 31: ‘The answer is no’

Taliban leaders warn of ‘consequences’ if U.S. troops stay past Aug. 31: ‘The answer is no’

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In this Aug. 20, 2021, photo provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, a Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) provides a meal ready-to-eat to a child during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Sgt. … more >

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Monday, August 23, 2021

Taliban leaders warned Monday that U.S. and British troops will face “consequences” if they continue evacuations at Kabul‘s international airport past President Biden‘s self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan.

The threat from Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen puts even more pressure on the Biden administration and its allies to complete its withdrawal of diplomatic personnel, military service members and Afghan allies before the end of the month. 

The president said Sunday that the White House is considering extending that Aug. 31 deadline. He again expressed an “unwavering commitment” to get all Americans and Afghan allies out of Afghanistan safely, even if that requires staying longer than anticipated.

SEE ALSO: One dead after U.S. troops fire back at Kabul gunman

But the Taliban flatly rejected any extension and strongly suggested that insurgent fighters would target American forces after Aug. 31.

“It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend, it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that,” Mr. Shaheen, the Taliban spokesperson, said in an interview with Sky News published early Monday morning. “If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations, the answer is no. Or there would be consequences.”

At the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, a frantic pace of evacuations continues. Since Aug. 14, more than 37,000 people have been flown out of the city, which is now under Taliban control after the rapid collapse of the Afghan military and the dissolution of the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

Just over the last 24 hours, White House officials said, U.S. military aircraft flew another 10,400 out of Kabul, while another 5,900 escaped the city aboard coalition aircraft.

The president said that the White House will keep up the pace of those evacuations and will get all Americans and allies out of the country, no matter how long it takes.

“There’s discussions going on among us and the military about extending. Our hope is we will not have to extend, but there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process,” Mr. Biden said during remarks at the White House on Sunday.

The president initially set a Sept. 11 deadline to pull all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan. He later moved up that cut-off date to Aug. 31.

VP Harris: Focus must stay on Afghan evacuation, declines to evaluate what went wrong in messy exit

VP Harris: Focus must stay on Afghan evacuation, declines to evaluate what went wrong in messy exit

Singapore PM: 'We hope Afghanistan does not become an epicenter for terrorism again'

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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, right, and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hold a meeting in Singapore Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool Photo via AP) more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Monday, August 23, 2021

Vice President Kamala Harris swatted away soul-searching Monday over the chaotic effort to evacuate Americans and select Afghans from Kabul, using a press conference in Singapore to focus on the ongoing mission instead of what went wrong in the swift drawdown after two decades of war.

“I think there’s going to be plenty of time to analyze what has happened and what has taken place in the context of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. But right now, we are singularly focused on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us, and Afghans who are vulnerable, including women and children. And that is our singular focus at this time,” she told reporters while standing alongside Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. “This is a difficult mission. There’s no question about that. But our focus has to be on the task at hand.”

President Biden said Sunday the evacuation mission had turned the corner after a rocky start, calling it “an incredible operation,” while continuing to insist that there was “no way” to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan without turmoil. 

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He addressed the situation after a series of rocky days in which his comments about the pull-out conflicted with messy scenes on television of the Taliban whipping and beating Afghans trying to get to the airport. His approval ratings plunged as he contends with the Kabul chaos and resurgence of COVID-19.

“The president has, I think, shown great emotion in expressing sadness about some of the images we have seen,” Ms. Harris said as she tours Southeast Asia to shore up ties in the region. “But we cannot be, in any way, distracted in any way from what must be our primary mission right now, which is evacuating people from that region who deserve to be evacuated.”

Mr. Lee said the administration “inherited an extremely difficult situation,” but he is concerned about what happens next.

“The U.S. had invested considerable blood and treasure in Afghanistan. But it was an intractable task given the complex history, geography, and tribal rivalries of the place. Successive U.S. presidents have declared their resolve to withdraw from Afghanistan. So I told the vice president that we understand President Biden’s reasons for his decision. The U.S. intervention has stopped terrorist groups from using Afghanistan as a safe base for 20 years. For this, Singapore is grateful,” he said.

“We hope Afghanistan does not become an epicenter for terrorism again,” he said. “And post-Afghanistan, in the longer term, what matters is how the U.S. repositions itself in the Asia Pacific, engages the broader region, and continues the fight against terrorism — because that will determine the perceptions of the countries of the U.S. global priorities and of its strategic intentions.”

Afghanistan debacle: Biden Abandoned Trump pullout plan

Inside the Afghanistan debacle: Biden abandoned Trump’s pullout plan

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In this Aug. 20, 2021, photo provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, a Marine assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit carries a girl at a gate to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. (1st Lt. Mark Andries/U.S. Marine … more >

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By Rowan Scarborough and Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Sunday, August 22, 2021

The desperate pleas crossing cyberspace from Afghanistan to the U.S. symbolize America’s surrender to a feudal terrorist army, qualifying the retreat as the nation’s most embarrassing.

President Biden’s decision to bypass his military advisers and order a complete withdrawal has left tens of thousands of Americans and friendly Afghans trapped by Taliban terrorist brigades.

Congressional sources told The Washington Times that they were kept in the dark as they asked repeatedly for a timetable to evacuate civilians once the president announced the decision in April.

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They never received the timetable, and Afghanistan fell to the Taliban on Aug. 15.

Making one’s way through Kabul’s teeming streets to Hamid Karzai International Airport grew even more dangerous Saturday.

Agence France-Presse reported that Taliban leaders turned over the city’s security to Khalil Haqqani, a Talibanal Qaeda hybrid on whom the U.S. has put a $5 million bounty. The Haqqani network is led by a notorious terrorist family running a Taliban haven in Pakistan.

Afghans who worked shoulder to shoulder with U.S. troops and diplomats are hoping those contacts will leverage lifesaving flights out of Kabul, now patrolled by victorious Taliban squads.

A former Pentagon official told The Washington Times that he is working to win freedom for a number of Afghans, such as the female government employee who sent an email saying, “I’m in bad security situation, my life and my family life is danger.”

“They are hiding. All they can do,” the former official, who did not want to be identified, told The Times.

During the crisis and two interrupted vacations, Mr. Biden has delivered a number of inaccurate assessments, liberal and conservative media outlets said.

The string began with the president’s July 8 declaration that local Afghan forces would prevail.

The flubs continued at his Friday press conference when he asserted that al Qaeda had left Afghanistan. The Taliban-hosted terrorist group that executed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the U.S. and triggered an American invasion of Afghanistan 20 years ago is diminished but has not exited.

Perhaps Mr. Biden’s most inappropriate advice was that it was safe for Americans — now essentially Taliban hostages — to come out of hiding and go to the U.S.-protected international airport in Kabul.

He said the Taliban assured his team that Americans could pass through their checkpoints safely.

The embassy staff in Kabul contradicted that advice the next day.

Abandoning Trump’s pullout plan

Mr. Biden’s troop withdrawal sped along with fatal precision. After his April announcement that all U.S. troops would pull out by Sept. 11, U.S. Central Command began issuing press releases about the numbers of airlifted personnel and equipment.

Mr. Biden abandoned what President Trump had billed as a “conditions-based” pullout. If the Taliban did not abide by certain agreements, then the U.S. outflow would stop as it did in October, when troop numbers held at 2,500.

Mr. Trump spoke by phone with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban leader negotiating in Doha, Qatar, and warned him against breaking a February 2020 agreement. “We know where you live,” Mr. Trump told him, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg said on Fox News.

Mr. Biden’s withdrawal, however, was free-flowing. 

On July 2 came the big vacancy. Bagram, the sprawling air base 40 miles north of Kabul that for two decades had served as the operational heartbeat, was abandoned in the dead of night. Afghans complained that the commander never said goodbye.

A defense official familiar with the planning told The Washington Times that military commanders had always intended to close Bagram before the American withdrawal was complete.

The official rejected the idea that it was practical to keep Bagram operational until Mr. Biden’s deadline or shortly before. The source said it would have been a logistical nightmare to attempt to transport thousands of U.S. personnel from Kabul or from other more distant cities.

But plans to rely on one airfield did not take into account such a rapid collapse. That scenario, the official said, “was beyond the conceivable” as Defense Department leaders crafted the withdrawal.

Two weeks after Bagram’s shuttering, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin greeted the war’s last in-country commander, Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, in the U.S.

Afghanistan was losing its American security forces, its biggest operational base and its four-star ground commander. The Taliban were watching.

While Mr. Biden was speaking to the press on July 8, the Taliban were capturing districts with relative ease and turning the battle toward the big prizes: provincial capitals.

The Washington press corps was skeptical as Mr. Biden said the U.S. military mission would end on Aug. 31. Making some of his most unfortunate predictions, the president angrily rejected journalists’ warnings that the Afghan security forces — a mix of 300,000 army soldiers, airmen and police — would fold.

“I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped and more competent in terms of conducting war,” Mr. Biden said.

Asked whether a Taliban victory was inevitable, he said, “No, it is not. Because the Afghan troops have 300,000 well-equipped — as well-equipped as any army in the world — and an air force against something like 75,000 Taliban. It is not inevitable.”

Two weeks later at the Pentagon, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave the same promise.

“The Afghan security forces have the capacity to sufficiently fight and defend their country, and we will continue to support the Afghan security forces where necessary in accordance with the guidance from the president and the secretary of defense,” Gen. Milley told reporters.

Mr. Biden’s and Gen. Milley’s assurances would turn out to be the war’s final and greatest miscalculations.

Two weeks later, on Aug. 4, State Department spokesman Ned Price promoted the Afghan army.

“No. 1, it is a simple fact that the Afghan security forces are numerically far superior to the Taliban,” Mr. Price said. “It’s a simple fact. They have over 300,000 troops. They have an air force. They have special forces. They have heavy equipment. The Taliban, in contrast, have less than 100,000 forces.”

Two days later, the first provincial capital fell. Nearly all of the other 33 collapsed within 11 days.

Two days before Kabul fell Aug. 15, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby assured the public that a Taliban takeover was not imminent.

Pressed by Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson on Saturday to explain why he was so wrong, Mr. Kirby said, “In the moment that I said it, based on what we knew at the time, it was a true statement. And yes, two days later things dramatically changed. I readily admit that. Things moved very, very quickly.”

On Aug. 13, the Taliban captured Kandahar, their spiritual birthplace and the operational base of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as the Sept. 11 attacks were planned. Then came Jalalabad, the gateway to Pakistan on Kabul’s eastern flank.

Almost simultaneously, Taliban fighters, some with captured American guns and vehicles, waltzed into Kabul on Aug. 15. Fighters posed for a photo portrait in the ornate presidential palace.

Less-ceremonious Taliban began the street-by-street hunt in a city of 5 million for the Afghans who helped the Americans. Taliban social media promised “amnesty,” but those in hiding knew that was a lie.

Jarred by the Taliban’s stunning advances, the White House and Pentagon held a series of meetings to produce a new plan.

Mr. Biden replaced the American drawdown with a buildup of more than 4,000 troops, speeding 82nd Airborne soldiers and Marines to the Kabul airport with a main goal of putting evacuees on airplanes.

With Gen. Miller gone, a two-star admiral assigned to the embassy headed the last American stand.

American troops left first, stranding some 60,000 or more U.S. citizens and Afghan visa holders.

Biden seems to ignore Pentagon

What exactly the intelligence community told Mr. Biden is garbled and will be scrutinized by Congress. Lawmakers are talking about hearings as early as this week.

Did the CIA tell Mr. Biden it was “highly unlikely” that the Afghan security forces would stand up and protect crucial population centers? The Biden team was so confident that it budgeted another $3.3 billion for the security forces next year on top of the nearly $90 billion spent since 2001.

“No. 1, as you know, the intelligence community did not say back in June or July that, in fact, this was going to collapse like it did,” Mr. Biden told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

He said he was told that the CIA did believe the Taliban would win the war, “but not this quickly. Not even close.”

Asked whether any of his military advisers recommended keeping the 2,500 troop level inherited from Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden said, “No, they didn’t. It was split.”

A Wall Street Journal report this spring said all of Mr. Biden’s top military advisers did urge the president to maintain the Trump troop number.

During the Saturday press briefing at the Pentagon, Mr. Kirby did not deny that Mr. Austin made such a recommendation. As Iraq commander, Mr. Austin made the same recommendation to President Obama, but the president pulled all troops in 2011.

Mr. Kirby said, “The secretary is 100% focused on the mission at hand right now, which is a noncombatant evacuation operation. And he’s comfortable that throughout this deliberation, his voice was heard. That he had an opportunity to provide his best advice and counsel to the commander in chief and to the national security team as did other leaders here at the Pentagon. It was a very inclusive, very deliberate process, and the secretary believes that the president was given the benefit of a lot of different views. Not just his, but a lot of different views.”

The answer leaves the unmistakable impression that Mr. Biden overrode his secretary of defense, paving the way for the Afghanistan disaster.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported on a memo from more than 20 embassy staff members in Kabul to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The memo said the situation was quickly deteriorating and urged an accelerated evacuation. The evacuation did not begin until mid-August.

Republicans warn administration

In Congress, Democrats have offered some criticism and muted praise for Mr. Biden’s Afghanistan policy.

In contrast, Republicans predicted a disaster early on. No one raised warning signs more than Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Once news reports surfaced in April that Mr. Biden had decided on a 100% troop withdrawal by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the al Qaeda attack, Mr. McCaul predicted a disaster.

“I am shocked and extremely concerned by reports of President Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by September,” he said.

“This will mean we are not leaving a residual force to address the counterterrorism threats emanating from Afghanistan, abandoning our Afghan partners during critical peace negotiations, and allowing the Taliban a total victory despite their failure to fulfill their commitments under our agreement. This premature withdrawal shows a complete disregard for the realities on the ground and will not only put Afghans at risk, but endanger the lives of U.S. citizens at home and abroad. I have urgently requested details on this decision and strongly urge the president to reconsider,” he said.

Later in April, Mr. McCaul urged Mr. Blinken to prepare for counterterrorism operations once the U.S. leaves Afghanistan.

Mr. McCaul wrote, “Given the threat the withdrawal of U.S. troops poses to our homeland, it is vital that the administration is clear-eyed about the implications of this withdrawal and rapidly secures the basing, overflight for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and strikes, and other necessary agreements that will allow us to have lethal counterterrorism capabilities from countries around Afghanistan and in the larger region.”

By June, Mr. McCaul was chastising the administration for the slow pace in processing visas for Afghan interpreters and other loyalists. Thousands remain stranded four months later.

“These Afghans will have a bull’s-eye on their backs from the moment we leave the country,” he said. “If President Biden abandons them, he is signing their death warrants.”

Sources on Capitol Hill said they were never given any kind of pullout schedule or timetable.

One congressional source told The Times that they “asked repeatedly” for details about the plan to evacuate both U.S. personnel and Afghan allies.

“We asked for timetables,” said the source, but the Biden team refused. “We were under the assumption that when they told us they were going to get these people out … they were actually going to do it.”

Foreign criticism

What Mr. Biden did not expect was the resounding criticism of him, by name, from NATO allies.

The president has touted his interactions with the Western alliance as a welcome change from Mr. Trump’s brusque criticism.

“America is back,” Mr. Biden told NATO.

Not as far as British politicians are concerned.

The British Parliament convened an emergency session Wednesday to condemn Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the Afghanistan collapse and, strikingly, the American president.

Member of Parliament Tom Tugendhat, who served with NATO forces in Afghanistan, said he was appalled at Mr. Biden’s tactic of blaming the Afghan security forces and called out Mr. Biden’s lack of military service.

“To see their commander in chief call into question the courage of men I fought with, to claim that they ran, it’s shameful,” he said. “Those who have never fought for the colors they fly should be careful about criticizing those who have.”

Mr. Biden had said on Aug. 16, “Here’s what I believe to my core. It is wrong to order American troops to step up when Afghanistan’s own armed forces would not.”

Afghanistan has lost nearly 60,000 troops in battle, far more than the Americans, who switched to an advisory role in 2014 and provided vital close-air support to pound Taliban positions.

Former British Army chief Richard Dannatt, a member of the House of Lords, said, “The manner and timing of the Afghan collapse is the direct result of President Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of 9/11.”

He said in Parliament that “at a stroke,” Mr. Biden had “undermined the patient and painstaking work of the last five, 10, 15 years to build up governance in Afghanistan, develop its economy, transform its civil society and build up its security forces.”

It wasn’t just Britain. The leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party also lashed out at the U.S. actions.

“This is the biggest debacle that NATO has seen since its foundation, and it is an epochal change that we are facing,” Christian Democratic Union Chairman Armin Laschet said last week.

Days after these stinging rebukes, Mr. Biden said Friday, after returning to the White House from vacation, “I have seen no question of our credibility from our allies around the world.”

Republicans push back against Biden’s claims of safe passage to Kabul airport

GOP pushes back against Biden’s claims of safe passage to Kabul airport

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In this image provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, Marines assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) provide assistance during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Marine Corps … more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Friday, August 20, 2021

Republican lawmakers on Friday said President Biden‘s optimistic view on the scramble to evacuate U.S. citizens and vulnerable Afghans from the country don’t match reports on the ground.

In remarks from the White House, Mr. Biden said the U.S. was making progress on the Afghanistan evacuation. But reports from Kabul paint chaotic scenes outside the airport, where thousands are waiting in blistering heat with some waiting for days just to get inside.

Republicans seized on the contrast.

SEE ALSO: Biden: U.S. has made ‘significant progress’ on Afghanistan evacuations

“President Biden is either divorced from reality or he‘s intentionally misleading the nation about what is actually happening in Afghanistan,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican. “The evacuation process is a nightmare. It is unconscionable that the most powerful nation on earth won’t guarantee the safe passage of American citizens, instead choosing to put their fate in the hands of the Taliban.”

Mr. Tillis also blasted the president’s claims that Americans can safely get to the airport as reports of violence and chaos along roads have slowed the evacuation process. Taliban militants have set up checkpoints blocking Americans and vulnerable Afghans from reaching the airports.

“President Biden appears willfully ignorant to the fact that these American citizens and Afghans are being forced to get through Taliban checkpoints and are having extreme difficulty getting to the airport and inside of it,” he continued. “Their journey is especially harrowing as we hear more reports of Americans being beaten and the Taliban going door-to-door to execute Afghans who served alongside American troops.”

The Republican National Committee said Mr. Biden‘s claims of safe passage to the airport are “verifiably false.”

Joe Biden created a disaster in Afghanistan, and now Americans and our allies are paying the price,” said RNC spokeswoman Emma Vaughn. “Biden‘s claims that Americans can safely get to the Kabul airport and that our allies support his management handling of the crisis are verifiably false. Americans deserve accountability and transparency, not continued lies and failure.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan, Alaska Republican, called Mr. Biden‘s views “disconnected from the reality on the ground.”

“Right now, thousands of Americans and our Afghan partners stand in harm’s way on a tarmac in Kabul, or worse, in Taliban-controlled areas elsewhere in the country as America’s standing in the world erodes,” he said.

Democrats, for their part, were largely mum on Mr. Biden‘s remarks. A Friday afternoon scroll of Twitter accounts for Democrat lawmakers revealed their focus was on issues such as student debt and COVID-19 vaccines.

Biden hasn’t spoken with world leaders since Afghanistan fell

Biden hasn’t spoken with world leaders since Afghanistan fell

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President Joe Biden speaks about Afghanistan from the East Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

President Biden has yet to speak with world leaders since Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday afternoon.

Mr. Sullivan’s remarks during a White House press briefing came as world leaders across the globe have spoken out about the situation in Afghanistan, with some pointing a finger at Mr. Biden.

“He has not spoken with any other world leaders,” Mr. Sullivan told reporters. “Right now, the main issue is an operational issue. It’s about how we coordinate with them to help them get their people out. And we are operating through logistical channels and policy channels to try and make that happen.”

SEE ALSO: On eve of Kabul’s fall to Taliban, U.S. watchdog predicted ‘bleak’ future with al Qaeda on the rise

Mr. Sullivan did say that he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have had calls with several of their foreign counterparts. Mr. Blinken spoke with officials in China and Russia since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki also was pressed about the lack of contact between Mr. Biden and other world leaders. She, too, said the administration was focused on evacuating Americans and others out of Afghanistan.

“If there is a benefit to the president picking up the phone and calling a world leader, he will certainly do that, and I expect he will do that in the coming days,” she said.

SEE ALSO: Taliban promise to respect women’s rights; few are buying it

Several world leaders have criticized the U.S. decision to pull out of Afghanistan, saying it could return conditions there to the era when the Taliban previously ruled the country, from 1996 to 2001, and it was a breeding ground for terrorists.

In Italy, Foreign Affairs Minister Luigi di Maio pointed a finger at Mr. Biden, saying “the West has made mistakes and it is right to admit,” according to NBC News.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the Afghanistan situation “bitter, dramatic and terrifying.” Germany has scrambled to evacuate more than 130 diplomats and others from the Kabul airport.

“It is a terrible development for the millions of Afghans who want a more liberal society,” she said. “I am thinking of the pain of families of soldiers who lost their lives fighting there. Now everything seems so hopeless.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson distanced himself from the United Kingdom’s role in Afghanistan, noting that his country’s involvement in the conflict ended in 2014.

“I think we’ve known for some time this is the way things were going and as I said before, this is a mission whose military component really ended for the U.K. in 2014, what we’re dealing with now is the very likely advent of a new regime in Kabul, we don’t know exactly what kind of a regime that will be,” Mr. Johnson said.

Biden under fire as Afghanistan overrun by Taliban, Ashraf Ghani flees

‘Blood on his hands’: Biden under fire over collapse in Afghanistan

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Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Zabi Karimi) more >

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By Seth McLaughlin

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Biden administration on Sunday deflected blame for the rapid fallout from the U.S. troop from Afghanistan, racing to stem the political bleeding from the biggest foreign policy challenge of his young presidency.

The White House was reeling from images of U.S. diplomats and civilians scrambling to evacuate Kabul as the Taliban advanced into the Afghan capital

The situation grew direr after reports that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country and that thousands of militants from the Islamic State group and al Qaeda had been released from prison.

SEE ALSO: At least seven dead in chaos at Kabul airport as U.S. troops scramble to maintain order

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the Biden administration was in a no-win situation because President Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban last year that set a May 1 conditions-based deadline to withdraw all remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Mr. Blinken also blamed the utter failure of U.S.-backed Afghan military forces to defend their country. He said it “happened more quickly than anticipated.”

“The fact of the matter is, had the president decided to keep forces in Afghanistan beyond May 1, attacks would have resumed on our forces,” Mr. Blinken said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The Taliban had not been attacking our forces or NATO during the period from which the agreement was reached to May 1.

SEE ALSO: ‘No way to hide it’: Biden faces friendly-fire on Afghanistan from key moderate Democrat

“The offensive you’re seeing across the country now to take these provincial capitals would have commenced, and we would have been back at war with the Taliban,” he said. “I would probably be on this program today explaining why we were sending tens of thousands of American forces back into Afghanistan and back to war, something the American people simply don’t support.” 

Republicans said the Taliban refused to uphold their part of the peace deal, but the Biden administration nevertheless plowed ahead with the withdrawal.

“I think the secretary has been devoid of reality this whole time since the decision was made in May,” Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think it’s an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions.” 

“This is going to be a stain on this president and his presidency, and I think he’s going to have blood on his hands for what they did,” said Mr. McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

For his part, Mr. Trump on Sunday called on Mr. Biden to resign.

“It is time for Joe Biden to resign in disgrace for what he has allowed to happen to Afghanistan, along with the tremendous surge in COVID, the Border catastrophe, the destruction of energy independence, and our crippled economy,” Mr. Trump said in one of two statements sent out early Sunday evening.

“What Joe Biden has done with Afghanistan is legendary,” he said in the other. “It will go down as one of the greatest defeats in American history!”

Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican, said both the Biden and Trump administrations deserve blame.

“They walked down this path of legitimizing the Taliban, of perpetuating this fantasy, telling the American people that the Taliban were a partner for peace,” Ms. Cheney said on ABC’s “This Week.” “President Trump told us that the Taliban was going to fight terror. [Former Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo told us that the Taliban was going to renounce al Qaeda.”

“None of that has happened. None of it has happened,” she said.

Ms. Cheney said the deteriorating situation exposes the fallacy of campaign promises that “we’re going to end endless wars.”

“What we’re watching right now in Afghanistan is what happens when America withdraws from the world,” she said.

Mr. Pompeo, who is considering a presidential run in 2024, called attempts to blame the Trump administration “pathetic” and said the Biden administration should move to “crush” the Taliban entering Kabul.

“I can assure you if I were still secretary of state with a commander in chief like President Trump, the Taliban would have understood that there were real costs to pay if there were plots against the United States of America,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Even as the Taliban were capturing provincial capitals and other cities across Afghanistan, polls showed that most U.S. voters backed the troop withdrawal.

A Chicago Council Survey released last week found that 70% of Americans — including 77% of Democrats, 73% of independents and 56% of Republicans — agreed with removing the troops.

The unraveling situation, however, is changing the political dynamic and opening the door for Mr. Trump and others to cast the Biden administration as soft and misguided on the world stage.

“Tragic mess in Afghanistan, a completely open and broken border, crime at record levels, oil prices through the roof, inflation rising, and taken advantage of by the entire world,” Mr. Trump said in a statement Friday. 

“Do you miss me yet?” He asked in all capital letters.

Looking to dull the attacks, Mr. Biden announced Saturday the deployment of about 5,000 troops to help evacuate U.S. personnel as the Taliban advanced. 

He said in a statement that Mr. Trump left the Islamist group “in the strongest position militarily since 2001” when he left office and insisted that his rationale for withdrawing the U.S. military from Afghanistan was the right course.

“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,” Mr. Biden said. “An endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.”

Republicans reminded viewers Sunday that Mr. Biden, citing the strength of Afghan security forces, slapped down the idea that a Taliban takeover was inevitable.

“You just had President Biden a few days ago saying you wouldn’t see helicopters evacuating the embassy like Saigon, and yet here we are,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican. “This is President Biden’s Saigon moment, and unfortunately it was predictable.

“It seems like many in President Biden’s intelligence community got this devastatingly wrong,” he said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “He was either widely misled by his own intelligence or he was misleading the American people deliberately.”

Biden administration slaps new sanctions on Belarus

Biden administration slaps new sanctions on Belarus

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends an annual press conference in Minsk, Belarus, Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. Belarus’ authoritarian leader on Monday charged that the opposition was plotting a coup in the runup to last year’s presidential election that triggered a … more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Monday, August 9, 2021

President Biden on Monday imposed new sanctions on Belarus and the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, whose crackdown on political opponents has drawn international condemnation.

Mr. Biden signed an executive order imposing sanctions on key institutions and supporters of Mr. Lukashenko, including the Belarusian National Olympic Committee, a private Belarusian bank, and business leaders.

The sanctions also target OAO, one of the country’s largest state-owned enterprises and one of the world’s largest producers of potash. It is alleged to be an illegal source of wealth for the Lukashenko regime.

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The sanctions were announced on the one-year anniversary of the Eastern European country’s election, which is widely viewed as fraudulent by the international community.

“Rather than respect the clear will of the Belarusian people, the Lukashenko regime perpetrated election fraud, followed by a brutal campaign of repression to stifle dissent,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.

“The United States will continue to stand up for human rights and free expression while holding the Lukashenko [regime] accountable in concert with our allies and partners,” the statement continued.

Other Western nations also have imposed sanctions on the Lukashenko regime, but they have not had much of an impact because Russia remains a key ally and creditor.

The U.S. announced sanctions in June as part of a coordinated response with the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union.

At the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya refused to board a plane home, seeking refugee status in Poland, saying she feared her safety if she returned.

The International Olympic Committee revoked the accreditation of two Belarusian coaches who tried to force the 24-year-old sprinter to return home.

Poland has granted her a visa on humanitarian grounds.

Since rising to power in 1994, Mr. Lukashenko has cracked down on political opponents. Those crackdowns have increased since last year’s election.