I am the President of the United States of America. The buck stops with me. I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision onto another president of the United States. — President Joe Biden
I am the President of the United States of America. The buck stops with me. I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision onto another president of the United States. — President Joe Biden
Inside Biden's defiant Afghanistan response
He had been facing calls, even from his political allies, to speak out on the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban. His top aides had begun publicly admitting they were caught off guard by the speed with which the Afghan military would collapse but wanted the situation in Kabul to stabilize before Biden addressed the nation. And his own words from earlier this summer describing a Taliban takeover as "unlikely" were aggravating the sense of a commander-in-chief caught badly off guard.

During briefings, the President quizzed his team about how they could have misjudged the time it would take for the Afghan army to collapse, according to people familiar with the matter. He has also voiced dismay at the failure of Ashraf Ghani, the ousted Afghan president who fled the country on Sunday, to adhere to a plan he laid out in the Oval Office in June to prevent the Taliban from taking over major cities.

Throughout the weekend, Biden had remained at the presidential retreat, receiving briefings on screens or over the phone while sitting alone at conference table. Advisers huddled separately to discuss when and how he should address the situation. When he returned to the White House midday Monday, many of his aides assumed he would at least spend the night.

... As advisers worked feverishly on Monday to calibrate the President's speech, there was far less worry about the predictable criticism from Republicans than about how Biden's own words and calculations over the last several months had been so wrong. The episode puts into sharp relief two of Biden's most marked political traits: A stubborn defensive streak and a fierce certainty in his decision-making that allows little room for second-guessing.

Those traits led to an air of defiance hanging over the White House on Monday, but remarkable images of the chaos in Kabul -- which the President called "gut wrenching" -- stood as irrefutable evidence of failure. The task of what to do next will be left to Biden.

... Biden has long exuded self-assurance both in his foreign policy views and political strategy, honed over his many years in Washington. Aides say while he welcomes dissenting views and robust debate, he is most likely to abruptly shut down a conversation if he feels his knowledge of a situation -- particularly on international affairs -- is being questioned.

That stubbornness was on fully display in his speech from the East Room, during which the President devoted far time defending his decision to withdraw American troops than acknowledging his administration's admitted miscalculations. While briefly acknowledging that the Taliban's advance and the collapse of the government took place "more quickly than we anticipated," Biden made clear that his intent to end the war hadn't changed.

"I am the President of the United States of America," Biden said. "The buck stops with me."

... He lashed out sharply at Ghani, saying the Afghan leader "flatly refused" Biden's advice on seeking a political settlement with the Taliban and was "wrong" on the strength of the Afghan military.

"I know my decision will be criticized, but I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision onto another president of the United States," he said in his speech.


While he walked out of the East Room without answering questions from reporters, key members of Congress signaled their intent to get to the bottom of the crisis.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said he and other lawmakers had "tough, but necessary questions about why we weren't better prepared for a worst-case scenario involving such a swift and total collapse of the Afghan government and security forces."

"We owe those answers to the American people," Warner said, "and to all those who served and sacrificed so much."
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/16/politics/white-house-afghanistan-biden-crises/index.html