The Biden White House released a 10-page summary of that review, conducted by the Biden National Security Council, of other reviews done by various government agencies, including the Departments of Defense and State. The summary was released to White House reporters only 10 minutes before a briefing on the review, giving reporters little time to read its contents and formulate questions.
At the briefing, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby repeatedly shifted blame to the Trump administration for negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban that he suggested the Biden administration had no choice but to follow or else face renewed war with the Taliban. And he also blamed the intelligence community and Biden’s military advisers for giving the president flawed intelligence that the Taliban were not going to take over Kabul as quickly as they did.
Kirby also admitted during the press conference that the point of the review was not to look for accountability — despite repeatedly trying to lay blame for the withdrawal at the feet of Trump.
“The purpose of the document that we’re putting out today is to sort of collate the chief reviews and findings of the agencies that did after-action reviews. The — it’s not — the purpose of it is not accountability. It’s — the purpose of it is — to study lessons learned.”
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During the briefing, White House reporters repeatedly asked Kirby whether Biden took blame for anything that happened during the withdrawal, which saw U.S. troops working day and night at the Kabul airport, trying to sift through and manage crowds of thousands of desperate Afghans outside and inside the airport and vet them for evacuation to the U.S. or other sites.
The evacuation saw thousands of Americans and Afghans who worked with U.S. troops left behind, and ended with 13 American service members killed. Kirby denied the withdrawal was “chaotic.”
At one point, Kirby bragged about how proud the Biden administration was for evacuating 124,000 people from the airport — despite many of them being unvetted or not having helped the U.S. war effort.
Newsmax Chief White House Correspondent James Rosen asked Kirby:
The depiction of the Commander-in-Chief that you present — or this Commander-in-Chief — is of a figure almost helpless and shaped and buffeted by individuals and forces and entities that are beyond his control when he had every option to increase the troop size there during his eight months in office, he had every option to intensify attacks on the 5,000 Taliban fighters, and so on.
So what — I just don’t understand why you’re willing to depict your boss, the Commander-in-Chief, as so helpless in this instance?
Kirby argued that Biden was “anything but helpless” and that he acted on “the best military judgment and the best assessments from the intelligence community as he could.”
“Some of those assessments turned out to be wrong, but it wasn’t for a lack of alacrity and energy and interest by the President in pulsing and questioning and analyzing all the way through,” he added.
Despite repeatedly blaming the intelligence community for giving Biden faulty intelligence, he lavished them with praise as well.
“They get paid to do the best they can, weaving in multiple sources of information, sometimes in real time without even a lot of time to process. And they do the best they can. Do they always get it right? They’ll be the first ones, if they were up here, to tell you they don’t always get it right,” he added.
Kirby declined to discuss what was in the intelligence community’s review and deferring questions to them — despite their secrecy about its work. (Typically, members of the intelligence community cannot discuss sensitive national security matters publicly or without permission, and would not be able to respond publicly).
He would not say whether the other agencies’ reviews would be released at some point, although he said they are being made available to members of Congress.
The review and Kirby’s remarks come just days after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told members of Congress that he did not have any regrets about the withdrawal.