President Biden overruled Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who advised him to slow the military withdrawal in Afghanistan, according to a new book being published next week.
In “Peril,” the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa write that Austin and Blinken cautioned against a rapid drawdown — which eventually led to the deaths of 13 US service members — but Biden was resolute after seeing the war drag on for two decades and watching how the military and national security advisers boxed in then-President Barack Obama when he wanted to pull out.
Biden believed military leaders manipulated Obama in his first year in the White House, the authors write in an excerpt obtained by CNN.
“The military doesn’t f–k around with me,” Biden told people in 2009, referring to Obama, the book says.
Blinken had initially agreed with Biden on a full withdrawal but shifted his stance after speaking to NATO ministers in March.
“His new recommendation was to extend the mission with US troops for a while to see if it could yield a political settlement. Buy time for negotiations,” the book, which will hit bookstores next Tuesday, says.
Blinken told Biden during a phone call from Brussels that he was hearing from NATO officials “in quadraphonic sound” that the US should use its plan to withdraw as leverage to strike a political settlement.
Austin proposed a “gated” withdrawal in three or four stages during the negotiations to keep the pressure on.
But Biden insisted that he wouldn’t allow “mission creep” to extend the presence of US troops in Afghanistan.
“Our mission is to stop Afghanistan from being a base for attacking the homeland and US allies by al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, not to deliver a death blow to the Taliban,” Biden said in a meeting of the National Security Council — one of 25 held about Afghanistan, the book says.
Biden had originally planned to have all troops out of the war-torn country by Sept. 11, but then accelerated the deadline to Aug. 31.
As American troops began the draw down, Taliban fighters moved from their strongholds in the south and began overtaking provincial capitals in a lightning-quick operation that culminated Aug. 15 when the extremists marched into Kabul and took control.
The sudden collapse of the Afghan national security forces caught the Biden administration flat-footed and led to a chaotic scene at Hamid Karzai International Airport as the White House scrambled to evacuate thousands of US citizens and Afghan allies.
Mobs of Afghans streaming to the airport blocked gates and clogged the streets of Kabul.
Taking advantage of the disorder, an ISIS-K terrorist ignited a suicide bomb on Aug. 26, killing 13 US service members and scores of Afghans.
Woodward and Costa cover the end of former President Donald Trump’s time in office in “Peril,” but also the beginning of Biden’s administration.
Trump’s presence hangs over the Biden White House, they write.
Biden and members of his administration tried not to speak Trump’s name, and aides “frequently warned each other to please avoid the ‘T’ word.”
“What a f—ing a–hole,” Biden once said of the 45th president.
At the same time, Trump was preoccupied with his successor.
Trump told a group of his golfing partners that he wanted to paint his private plane red, white and blue in the design of Air Force One to taunt Biden.
“That’s my brand. I don’t do the corporate jet thing,” Trump said, according to the book.
“I’m not going to show up in a little Gulfstream like a f–king CEO.”
The book also claims that Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, contacted his Chinese counterpart twice in the waning days of the Trump administration to reassure him that the former president would not launch against Beijing.
Trump denied that he ever contemplated attacking China and said Milley’s actions, if true, constituted treason.