The question is when is the right time to leave? ... My job is to make judgments, my job is to make judgments no one else can or will make. — President Joe Biden
The question is when is the right time to leave? ... My job is to make judgments, my job is to make judgments no one else can or will make. — President Joe Biden
Biden tries for a reset after a nightmare week in Kabul
In a national address, Biden spoke on Sunday about the security threat posed by the Afghan affiliate of ISIS as US troops seek to keep up the pace of evacuations of Americans and eligible Afghans following the Taliban's takeover.

Any deterioration of an already tense security situation would not only exacerbate the already considerable risks of the operation but would pile fierce pressure on the White House over the management of the Afghan withdrawal. It would also show how events largely out of Biden's control could worsen the domestic political backlash over the crisis. And the President is not only facing peril abroad. The raging Covid-19 surge is outpacing White House efforts to ease the pandemic. And this week, the administration's political strategists must begin to deal with sharp Democratic divisions in the House over the President's top domestic priorities.

Biden is seeking to seize back the initiative and to paint a picture of a commander-in-chief on top of a crisis, after days in which he appeared overtaken by dire events, defiant about his decisions, indifferent to the suffering of Afghan civilians and more in the mood to blame others than take responsibility.

"We're working hard and as fast as we can to get people out," Biden said on Sunday that attempted to reframe the confusion and point to real improvements in the rescue effort but also hedge against possible reversals in a fraught security situation amid terror threats in Kabul.

"Our determination to get every American citizen home and to evacuate our Afghan allies is unwavering," the President said, after he canceled a weekend in Delaware to stay close to his national security and disaster management teams.

... "Every day we have troops on the ground. These troops, innocent civilians at the airport, face the risk of attack from ISIS-K from a distance," Biden said. That reality reflected the fundamental vulnerability of not just US troops but that the President's own political position depends on events beyond his control in Afghanistan.

After the stunning collapse of the Afghan state and the Taliban's victorious march into Kabul, the White House had to endure days of unflattering media coverage and speculation about the impact of the fiasco on Biden's reputation for leadership and his immediate political prospects.

But if the US airlift continues without incident in the days ahead, all of those who need to be extracted can leave Afghanistan, and American troops get out without casualties, the worst damage to Biden's reputation may be averted in the United States -- if not among dismayed allies abroad. For all the confusion, the evacuation could end up being considered something of a success.

... Republicans are seeking to use the crisis to create a narrative that Biden is incompetent, and to broaden the critique to his handling of border policies, the resurgence of the pandemic and the economy.

... While Biden's remarks appeared to be a tacit acceptance by the White House that some of last week's criticisms were rooted in fact, Biden offered no concessions on his wider point -- that he's correct to end the war.

"The question is when is the right time to leave?" he said Sunday, after taking a card from his pocket listing the 2,448 combat deaths in Afghanistan and more than 20,000 wounded. "I am not about to send your son and your daughter to fight in Afghanistan," the President said in a direct appeal to American viewers. He also insisted that history would vindicate his decision as logical, right and rational.

"My job is to make judgments, my job is to make judgments no one else can or will make," the President said.
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