• December 6, 2021

Psaki rejects criticism of Democratic congresswoman’s withdrawal from Afghanistan

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki addresses the attack in Afghanistan during the daily press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, on August 26, 2021.
(Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday dismissed concerns expressed by Representative Susan Wild that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan had been “egregiously mishandled”, arguing that it is “easy to throw stones” from the Exterior.

“While it is clear to me that we could no longer put the American military in jeopardy by an unwinnable war, I also believe that the evacuation process appears to have been atrociously mishandled,” Wild wrote in a tweet Thursday after a bombing. at the Kabul airport killed 13 US soldiers and dozens of Afghan civilians.

When asked about Wild’s comments during a press conference on Friday, Psaki said that while he does not have a “direct answer to any member of Congress” that “it is easy to throw stones or be a critic from the outside.”

“It is more difficult to be in the arena and make difficult decisions and the decision that a commander-in-chief must make is among the difficult options,” he said.

He went on to create a false dichotomy, saying that President Biden faced two options: send tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan “to potentially lose their lives” or withdraw and put no one at risk by not working to evacuate Americans. . and Afghans.

“He has chosen in coordination and based on the recommendation of military commanders and advisers on the ground to implement an evacuation that has potentially saved the lives of more than 105,000 people, undoubtedly at risk of the men and women who are serving in the army, as we saw from yesterday’s events, ”he said.

Psaki then had a tense exchange with a reporter who declined, noting that she has repeatedly painted a false picture of the situation by listing only two options. The journalist asked “what evidence” Psaki has that no other decisions could have been made.

“Well, what is the other option that someone offers?” Psaki replied.

After the journalist responded that the administration could have started the evacuation in May, among a number of other options, Psaki acknowledged that there are “of course, other options.”

He argued that if the evacuation had started in May, “in all likelihood, the threat to US forces would have increased at that time.”

The reporter declined, saying the United States would at least have been operating in a capital that was not “invaded by the Taliban.”

After more back and forth, Psaki finally said that he believes it is “easy to play the background” in hindsight and acknowledged that “no one anticipated” that the Afghan government would have fallen so quickly.

The Biden administration has continued to avoid blame for the chaos in Afghanistan, avoiding questions about how the evacuation could have been better handled.

Biden chose Withdraw US forces at the height of the fighting season amid a mounting Taliban offensive. The US military left Bagram airfield last month without informing its new Afghan commander and before removing all US civilians and special visa applicants from Afghan immigrants. The Afghan forces were left without any substitute for US air support or US contractors servicing the planes left by the US.

Later on Friday, Psaki defended the US decision to shut down Bagram, saying it “required a huge presence” and was at a “significant distance” from Kabul and therefore would not have been effective in evacuating people. found in the capital.

However, the Taliban seized the Bagram airbase prison while conquering cities and provinces in Afghanistan and subsequently released “thousands” of ISIS-K prisoners in the country, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby. .

The prison had housed approximately 5,000 inmates. of affiliation with Taliban and Islamic State groups, Associated Press previously reported. The perpetrators of Thursday’s airport attack are believed to have likely come from the group of released prisoners.

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