President Biden likely won’t clean house among his national security staff over the Afghanistan evacuation debacle and the team’s failure to anticipate the Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover of the country — unless the situation deteriorates considerably and American lives are lost, according to a report.
Ditching national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and CIA Director William Burns would be viewed as admitting a mistake, Axios reported. And while Biden acknowledges the operation has been “messy,” he’s committed to the withdrawal, the report said.
Speaking at the White House on Sunday, the president signaled that his decision to leave Afghanistan will be viewed more favorably down the road.
“I think that history is going to record this was the logical, rational, right decision to make,” Biden said.
“Let me be clear: The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul was going to be hard and painful no matter when it started, when we began. It would have been true if we had started a month ago — or a month from now. There’s no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss of heartbreaking images you see on television. It’s just a fact,” the president said.
The Axios report said longtime advisers don’t expect mass firings but acknowledged that the situation could change if the Taliban or terrorist groups begin killing Americans.
The focus at the White House now is on getting Americans and at-risk Afghans out of the country.
Instead of the scenes of desperation and chaos at Hamid Karzai International Airport, the Biden administration wants the headlines to be about successful evacuations.
The White House early Monday reported that 10,400 people had been evacuated in the past 24 hours, and 37,000 people had been flown out of the country since Aug. 14.
The US also rescued more than 100 Americans who couldn’t make it to the airport, Axios reported.
But pressure is mounting on the Biden administration over its handling of the evacuation, which some have compared to the US pullout from Saigon in 1976.
Some GOP lawmakers have called for heads to roll, with Sen. Lindsey Graham going as far as to say Biden should be impeached if he leaves Americans or Afghans behind to be slaughtered by the Taliban.
“If we leave one American behind, if we don’t get all those Afghans who stepped up to the plate and helped us out, then Joe Biden in my view has committed a high crime and misdemeanor under the Constitution, and should be impeached,” Graham (R-SC) said Friday.
“Because if we leave them behind, they’re going to get slaughtered,” he added.
But inside the White House, Axios said, some officials still blame the Trump administration’s negotiated May 1 withdrawal with the Taliban and insist the former president left no plans for an evacuation.
Former President Donald Trump blasted Biden’s handling of the pullout, saying, “Vietnam looks like a masterclass in strategy compared to Joe Biden’s catastrophe.”
“This will go down as one of the great military defeats of all time and it did not have to happen that way,” Trump said to his supporters during a speech Saturday in Alabama.
“This was not a withdrawal, this was a total surrender, for no reason.”