Biden will leave White House for Delaware tomorrow amid Afghan mess

Biden to leave White House for Delaware tomorrow as Afghan mess rages and thousands of US citizens and Afghan allies remain stranded in Kabul: Has only spent four of 15 days of crisis in DC

  • Joe Biden on Saturday will once again depart Washington for his summer home in Delaware, meaning he has spent only four of the last 15 days in DC
  • Kamala Harris has also left DC: she will be in Singapore, Vietnam and California for the next week
  • They are leaving Washington as the Afghanistan fiasco continues, with the pace of evacuations finally stepping up but chaotic scenes outside Kabul airport
  • Lloyd Austin, the Defense Secretary, said on Friday he was angered by reports of the Taliban beating U.S. citizens outside the airport
  • Taliban fighters with truncheons and whips are beating people back from the airport area, and shots have been fired  
  • Biden on Friday said he had not heard the reports, and said al-Qaeda was defeated in Afghanistan – a statement rapidly contradicted by the Pentagon 
  • The U.S. government is still unsure how many Americans remain in the country: estimates suggest around 15,000 U.S. citizens
  • Biden said on Wednesday that there were an additional 50-65,000 Afghans that they wanted to grant safe passage out of Afghanistan 
  • The president said on Friday that ‘any American who wants to get home will be brought home’ – even if it takes beyond the August 31 deadline  
  • Ramstein base in Germany is making further preparations to deal with the evacuees, after their Qatar base reached capacity
  • The evacuation airlift out of Kabul halted for several hours on Friday as Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar hit its capacity and the U.S. scrambled to find an alternative 

Joe Biden will leave Washington DC on Saturday for his holiday home in Delaware – exiting the White House amid the biggest crisis of his presidency.

The president will have spent only four days in the last 15 in the White House since the Taliban took their first regional capital, with the rest of the time at Camp David or in Delaware.

His vice president, Kamala Harris, left DC on Friday night for an Asia tour. She will be absent from Washington for a week, visiting Singapore, Vietnam and then California. Her office insisted she will continue to work on the Afghan crisis while she is in Asia.

Biden also has access to secure command and control centers at all locations he travels.

This comes after Biden’s widely panned speech from the White House that presented a reality totally at odds with what is going on in Afghanistan and at Kabul airport.  

Indeed, minutes after Biden said the mission to destroy Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was a success and that he knew of no circumstances where Americans had been unable to reach Kabul airport, he was flatly contradicted by the Pentagon.

Joe Biden is seen with Kamala Harris on Friday afternoon, addressing the nation before she flew to Singapore. On Saturday he will depart for Wilmington, Delaware

Yes, Al Qaeda remains present in Afghanistan, said Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby during a briefing, and yes, he was aware of reports of Americans being beaten by the Taliban as they tried to reach safety.

The contradiction will raise further doubt about whether Biden is in control of the White House messaging operation, let alone the chaotic effort to bring Americans home.  

He also flubbed while describing key communications with the Taliban, accidentally mangling the name of Doha, Qatar – a key focal point of negotiations as well as evacuations.

Asked about assurances of security for people making it to the airport, Biden responded: ‘We’ve been in constant contact with the Taliban leadership on the ground in Kabul, as well as the Taliban leadership in Daho’ – accidentally transposing the letters in the capital of Qatar.

‘And we’ve been coordinating what we’re doing,’ he added.

He did not immediately correct himself, but he later referred to the location correctly when defending the way the evacuation was handled. ‘The point was that although we were in contact with the Taliban and Doha for this whole period of time,’ there wasn’t expected to be a ‘total demise’ of the Afghan military, Biden said.

Doha is where the Trump administration held negotiations with members of the Taliban for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops.  

Biden is facing continuing criticism as videos and news reports depict pandemonium and occasional violence outside the airport.

‘I made the decision’ on the timing of the U.S. withdrawal, he said, his tone firm as he declared that it was going to lead to difficult scenes, no matter when. Former President Donald Trump had set the departure for May in negotiations with the Taliban, but Biden extended it.

Thousands of people remain to be evacuated ahead of Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw most remaining U.S. troops. Flights were stopped for several hours Friday because of a backup at a transit point for the refugees, a U.S. airbase in Qatar, but they resumed in the afternoon, including to Bahrain.

Still, potential evacuees faced continuing problems getting into the airport. The Belgian foreign ministry confirmed that one of its planes took off empty because the people who were supposed to be aboard couldn’t get in.

Evacuees are seen arriving in an undisclosed Middle Eastern air base on Friday, having been flown on U.S. Air Force planes out of Kabul

A U.S. soldier looks on as a smiling Afghan man, carrying a child, leaves Kabul on Wednesday

The White House announced that Biden would leave for Wilmington around midday on Saturday, following a meeting with his national security team to get updated on the situation. Harris will join remotely. 

But the president’s departure from DC for the weekend will be seized on by his critics, who have hammered Biden for the debacle in the war-torn country.

On Friday, evacuation flights were temporarily suspended when the Qatar air base which has, until now, been receiving the evacuees reached capacity. 

One man at Al Udeid air base in Doha told CBS News that about 2,000 Afghans and U.S citizens were crowded into the building on Friday.

He said it was hot, and many people were waiting hours for food, but that he and the others who had made it that far were grateful to the U.S., and relieved to be out of Kabul.   

Pentagon contradicts Biden MINUTES after his fumbling speech by saying Americans HAVE been attacked by the Taliban on the way to Kabul airport and al-Qaeda IS still operating in Afghanistan 

1:49pm ET: Joe Biden begins his remarks from the East Room of the White House.

He says that he believes all Americans who want to get into the airport and leave have been able to.

‘We have no indication that they haven’t been able to get — in Kabul — through the airport. We’ve made an agreement with the Taliban. Thus far, they’ve allowed them to go through.’

He also says that al-Qaeda has been wiped out in Afghanistan.

‘What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point with al Qaeda gone? We went to Afghanistan for the express purpose of getting rid of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, as well as — as well as getting Osama bin Laden. And we did.’

President Biden said the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan with the purpose of ‘getting rid of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, as well as getting Osama bin Laden And we did.’

Around 2:20pm ET: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley hold a conference call with members of Congress.

Austin, according to reports, directly contradicted Biden’s assurance that they had ‘no indication’ there was any trouble for Americans wanting to get to Kabul airport.

‘We’re also aware that some people, including Americans, have been harassed and even beaten by the Taliban,’ Austin said on the call, according to multiple sources.

‘This is unacceptable and [we] made it clear to the designated Taliban leader.’ 

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said: ‘We know that al-Qaeda is a presence, as well as ISIS, in Afghanistan’

2:30pm ET: Pentagon press secretary John Kirby briefs the media.

Kirby was asked about Austin contradicting the president.

He said that the U.S. has told the Taliban that it wants ‘free passage through these checkpoints for documented Americans.’

‘By and large, that’s happening,’ he added.

Kirby was also asked about al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

‘We know that al-Qaeda is a presence, as well as ISIS, in Afghanistan,’ he said.

‘And we’ve talked about that for quite some time.

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

It was then pointed out to him that Biden said al-Qaeda had been wiped out in Afghanistan.

Kirby replied: ‘We don’t think – we believe there isn’t a significant presence to merit a threat to our homeland, as there was back on 9/11 twenty years ago.’  

Footage shared on social media showed crowded conditions at Al Udeid air base in Qatar

One man told CBS News that he thought there were 2,000 people sheltering in the air base

Biden tells reporter ‘I can’t remember’ the first part of his question, calls the Qatar capital ‘Daho’ and is criticized for being in an ‘alternate reality’ on the Taliban in another concerning speech 

Here are the seven contentious moments from the president’s news conference:

Biden proclaims al-Qaeda is ‘gone’ in Afghanistan, in direct contradiction with the Pentagon’s assessment

 ‘What interest do we have in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda gone?’ Biden rhetorically asked the White House press corps. 

That assertion stands in direct contradiction to a report from the Defense Department Inspector general on Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, covering April 1, 2021 to June 30, 2021.

‘The Taliban continued to maintain its relationship with al-Qaeda, providing safe haven for the terrorist group in Afghanistan,’ the report read. 

A key provision of the US withdrawal under the Taliban peace deal was that the Taliban would not harbor terrorists, thus the report signals the US upheld its end of the deal even though the Taliban did not. 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, shortly after the president’s news conference, disputed his claim al-Qaeda had no presence in Afghanistan, but said: ‘there isn’t a presence significant enough to merit a threat to our homeland.’

 ‘We know that Al-Qaeda is a presence…in Afghanistan,’ Kirby said. ‘We don’t have an exact figure [of how many members]. 

On Monday, the day after the fall of Kabul, pro-al Qaeda social media accounts circulated an unsigned statement congratulating their Taliban ‘brothers’ on their stunning victory. 

‘Afghanistan is Conquered and Islam has Won,’ read the message, translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Biden himself said in an ABC interview released Thursday that al-Qaeda could resurge in Afghanistan even sooner than original intelligence predictions of 18-24 months. 

‘Could [al-Qaeda resurgence] be sooner?’ ABC News host George Stephanopoulos asked Biden. ‘It could be. But George, look, here’s the deal. Al Qaeda, ISIS, they metastasize,’ the president said, adding that al-Qaeda was a bigger threat in Syria and East Africa. 

Biden says he has seen ‘no indication’ Americans have had a tough time getting to the airport, but American journalists on the ground say otherwise  

‘We have no indication that [Americans] have not been able to get, in Kabul, through the airport. We have made an agreement with the Taliban. Thus far, they have allowed them to go through,’ Biden told reporters. 

‘To the best of our knowledge, the Taliban checkpoints, they are letting through people showing American passports,’ Biden said. 

Days ago the US State Department told Americans to get to the Kabul airport on their own to be evacuated. ‘THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT CANNOT ENSURE SAFE PASSAGE TO THE HAMID KARZAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT,’ they wrote in a memo. 

State Department spokesman Ned Price in a subsequent news conference  conceded that Americans were having a difficult time getting to the airport. 

‘It remains to be the case that many Afghans and many American citizens have not been able to get through,’ a reporter noted. ‘I don’t think anyone is denying the reports,’ Price said. 

‘We had difficulty getting into the airport. Working out how to get to the airport is like a Rubik’s cube,’ CNN’s Clarissa Ward, reporting from Kabul, said. ‘I can’t get into the details of how we did get in but it’s very difficult … and it’s dangerous.’ 

‘The president said he has no intelligence that the Americans have not been able to get [to the Kabul airport]. The question, obviously—does that square with reporting on ground?’ ABC’s David Muir asked foreign correspondent Ian Pannell. 

‘I mean – totally not,’ Pannell responded. ‘It just seems the reality and the rhetoric are miles apart. I’m not quite sure what advice the president is receiving but the truth on the ground is these people in fear of their lives can’t get through.’  

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a briefing call with House lawmakers that Americans had been beaten by Taliban, which he called ‘unacceptable.’   

Following Biden’s speech, Fox News national security reporter Jennifer Griffin blasted Biden for living in an ‘alternate reality.’

‘I’m having a hard time digesting what we heard because I couldn’t fact-check it fast enough in real-time because there were so many misrepresentations of what is happening on the ground,’ she said, adding that it was ‘an alternate reality presented by the White House.’

‘The first part of your question was — I can’t remember now.’ 

‘This is about America leading the world, and all our allies have agreed to that. And by the way, before I made this decision, I was at the G7, as well as met with our NATO partners, and I told them all, every one of them knew and agreed with the decision I made, to jointly end our involvement in Afghanistan. The first part of your question was — I can’t remember now,’ the president told a reporter.  

‘Would you make the same commitment to bring out afghans who assisted in the war effort?’ 

‘Yes, yes, we’re making the same commitment,’ the president said, adding that evacuating special immigrant visa recipients was ‘equally important, almost,’ as evacuating American citizens. 

‘I have seen no question of our credibility from our allies around the world,’ Biden said, but British MPs tore into the president’s Afghanistan pullout on Wednesday

Tom Tugendhat, veteran and Tory chairman of the foreign affairs committee, called Biden’s criticisms of Afghan soldiers ‘shameful.’ 

‘To see their commander in chief call into question the courage of men I fought with, to claim that they ran, is shameful,’ he said this week.  

Khalid Mahmood, a Labour MP and former defence minister, said, according to The Telegraph: ‘The Biden government have just come in and, without looking at what is happening on the ground, have taken a unilateral decision, throwing us and everybody else to the fire.’  

 Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: ‘The American decision to withdraw was not just a mistake – it was an avoidable mistake, from President Trump’s flawed to President Biden’s decision to proceed, and to proceed in such a disastrous way.’

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson blamed the US and said that Biden’s decision had forced his hand to end British involvement in Afghanistan. 

‘The West could not continue this US-led mission – a mission conceived and executed in support and defense of America – without American logistics, without US air power and without American might,’ he said. 

Biden flubs Doha, Qatar, calling it ‘Daho’

Asked about assurances of security for people making to the airport, Biden responded: ‘We’ve been in constant contact with the Taliban leadership on the ground in Kabul, as well as the Taliban leadership in Daho’ – accidentally transposing the letters in the capital of Qatar.

‘And we’ve been coordinating what we’re doing,’ he added.

He did not immediately correct himself, but he later referred to the location correctly when defending the way the evacuation was handled. ‘The point was that although we were in contact with the Taliban and Doha for this whole period of time,’ there wasn’t expected to be a ‘total demise’ of the Afghan military, Biden said.

Biden, asked why his administration ignored a cable warning of the swift fall of Kabul, responds: ‘We got all kinds of cables’  

 ‘We learned over the last 24 hours that there was a dissent cable from the State Department saying that the Taliban would come faster… Can you say why after that cable was issued, the U.S. didn’t do more?’ a reporter asked the president. 

‘We got all kinds of cables, we got all kinds of advice,’ Biden said. 

‘I took the consensus opinion the consensus was in fact it would not occur if it occurred until later in the year.’ 

On Friday the Wall Street Journal reported that State Department officials in Kabul had warned the Biden administration that the Afghan capital would fall. 

A dozen diplomats sent a confidential memo in a dissent channel to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on July 13 that the Taliban was rapidly gaining ground and the city was vulnerable to collapse.

On July 8, President Biden said it was ‘highly unlikely’ the Taliban would take control of Afghanistan and denied there would be chaos in Kabul.

But then on Wednesday this week, Biden said there was ‘no way’ to leave Afghanistan without chaos ensuing.   

Afghan security forces were collapsing, the diplomats said in the memo, and offered ways to mitigate the advancing insurgents.

But it may have been too late to stop them.

The State Department memo, according to the report, also called for the government to use tougher language on the violence in the past from the Taliban and urged them to start collecting information for Afghan allies who qualified for Special Immigrant Visas after working with US forces.

The Journal reported that 23 Embassy staffers signed the cable and rushed to deliver it considering the deteriorating situation in Kabul.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reviewed the cable, a personal familiar with it told the paper.

Biden signals he’ll work with the Taliban after his administration said they would pressure the international community not to recognize a Taliban government

 ‘There’s going to be harsh, strong conditions we’re going to apply, and it will depend on whether they get help based on whether or not how and well they treat women and girls and how they treat their citizens,’ Biden said.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US’ chief negotiator with the Taliban, traveled to Doha less than two weeks ago to inform the Taliban the US and its allies would not recognize its government if it came to power through force. 

A Taliban spokesman said this week: ‘We are guaranteeing all their rights within the limits of Islam.’ 

Another Taliban spokesman vouched that women would be happy, if they followed Sharia law: ‘If they continue to live according to Sharia, we will be happy, they will be happy.’

Biden admits his administration still doesn’t know how many Americans are in Afghanistan

The government is working ‘to verify the number of Americans still in country as we work on this,’ the president said.

 ‘We moved out 5,700 evacuees yesterday, and we’re working on a variety — to verify that number of the Americans that are still in the country as we work on this because we’re not — don’t have the exact number of people who are — Americans who are there,’ Biden said. ‘And those who may have come home to the United States, we’re not — we want to get a strong number as to exactly how many people are there, how many American citizens, and where they are.

In his Wednesday interview with ABC News, Biden said there were between 10,000 and 15,000 Americans still in Afghanistan.

An administration official said Thursday that 13,000 people had been evacuated on US military aircraft since August 14.






Commanders were forced to scramble to find an alternative, and on Friday hasty preparations were being made at Ramstein air base in Germany and Isa air base in Bahrain. 

Isa has capacity to temporarily shelter up to 1,000 people, and the Bahraini authorities gave the U.S. permission to keep people there for onward processing for up to 14 days.  

Other nations in the Persian Gulf are in discussion to host evacuees, including Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates where there are major USAF bases, according to Air Force Magazine.

Qatar was the ‘first way station’ for the evacuation, and as such it hit capacity quickly, said John Kirby, Pentagon spokesman, on Friday.

‘We are grateful other countries have already agreed to accept additional numbers, and we’re working out the details of that with them right now,’ Kirby said. 

‘From a military perspective, we are in need of additional capacity and we’re grateful that other countries are going to be helping us out with that capacity.’ 

Cots were being laid out inside Ramstein air force base in Germany, as hasty preparations were made for an influx of Afghan and American evacuees

Temporary housing was being erected on the U.S. base in Germany in anticipation of the new arrivals from Kabul

Ramstein’s Twitter account showed images of the U.S. troops working hard to ready the facility for the incoming flights

In the 24 hours leading up to Friday’s pause, a total of 16 C-17s and one C-130 departed Hamid Karzai International Airport as part of the U.S. evacuation.

The planes were carrying a total of 6,000 evacuees – 5,000 of whom were Afghans and the remainder American.

U.S. Air Force crews adjusted their operations to fly even more passengers, and are now regularly carrying 400 people as opposed to a previous limit of just over 300 for humanitarian operations, said Brig. Gen. Daniel A. DeVoe, commander of Air Mobility Command’s 618th Air Operations Center.

Biden has given the order to fill the planes, after embarrassing images emerged earlier this week showing cavernous cargo planes with only a handful of people inside.

Furthermore, after Britain and France sent special forces into Kabul to extract their citizens – leading to questions why the U.S. was not doing the same – three U.S. CH-47 helicopters picked up 169 Americans a few hundred yards outside the Kabul airport. The Americans had been told to wait in a building for extraction. 

A shocking image shows a near-empty evacuation flight taking the wife of an ex-Royal Marine commando out of Kabul as the Taliban block thousands of Afghans from entering the capital’s airport. Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing said on Twitter: ‘Kaisa is on her way home! BUT this aircraft is empty… scandalous as thousands wait outside #Kabul airport being crushed as they cannot get in. Sadly people will be left behind when this mission is over as we CANNOT get it right’

Footage shared on social media, which was unverified, showed crowds running outside what was believed to be Kabul airport

Biden said on Friday that he believed Americans were able to access Kabul airport unhindered, but social media footage like this suggested otherwise

Pandemonium unfolded at Kabul airport on Monday as thousands of people ran on to the runway in a desperate attempt to escape Taliban rule, fearing bloody reprisals by the Islamists

Thousands of Afghanis had raced on to the tarmac at Kabul airport before some jumped on the side of a US C-17 jet which was flying hundreds of diplomatic staff and visa holders out of the country

The White House is also struggling to control the damage from a series of conflicting statements on Friday – which saw Biden address the nation from the East Room and then, within 45 minutes, his Defense Secretary and Pentagon spokesman both say the president was incorrect.

In a remarkable sequence of events, Biden claimed that there were no reports of Americans having problems accessing Kabul airport, and then said al-Qaeda had been driven out of Afghanistan.

Immediately after, Lloyd Austin, the Secretary of Defense, said that reports of Americans being beaten by the Taliban were ‘unacceptable’.

Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, then said that it was known al-Qaeda retained a presence in Afghanistan.

Video on social media showed chaotic scenes at Kabul airport, for the fifth day since Kabul fell to the Taliban.

Biden added on Friday that 13,000 people had been flown out of Afghanistan on U.S. military aircraft since Saturday, and thousands more had been evacuated on private charter flights. 

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