President Biden spoke to Americans on Thursday, nearly nine hours after the first attack on the Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport, after being MIA all day.
“It’s been a tough day,” Biden began, adding that he’s “been engaged all day in constant contact with military commanders” in the Pentagon and Department of Defense.
Biden’s affect was flat throughout the speech, except for a few moments when he read some tough-talk off the teleprompter. He stumbled badly in the first few minutes of the address to the nation, sounding more defeated and confused than resolute.
He acknowledged that “the situation on the ground is still evolving,” but said the American service members who gave their lives “were heroes.” “They were part of an airlift and evacuation effort unlike anything in history.” He didn’t mention that the devastating events on the ground were caused by his failed leadership.
He said the soldiers who died on Thursday were part of “the bravest, most selfless military on the face of the earth… the spine of America, the best the country has to offer.”
“Jill and I, our hearts ache,” he said, showing no emotion. “We’re outraged as well as heartbroken.”
As Biden usually does when he faces criticism, he trotted out his deceased son Beau, bizarrely suggesting that his son’s cancer was somehow the result of his military service.
He said he was devastated “when [Beau] came home after a year in Iraq and was diagnosed, like many, many coming home, with an aggressive cancer of the brain, who we lost.”
“You get this feeling like you’re being sucked into a black hole in the middle of your chest and there’s no way out,” he reflected.
He then turned his attention to the attackers. “To those who carried out this attack…we will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said, vowing to use “every measure at my command.”
“We must complete this mission and we will,” he said, referring to the evacuation. “And that’s what I’ve ordered them to do.”
“We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose, at the moment of our choosing.”
“These ISIS terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans in there. We will get our Afghan allies out,” he vowed. “America will not be intimidated.”
He revealed that there had been “complete unanimity” among his military commanders concerning the hasty evacuation. “I granted every request from military commanders.”
“We have so much to do. It’s in our capacity to do it,” he said. “We just have to remain steadfast.”
Asked whether he will send additional troops to Afghanistan, he replied, “I’ve instructed the military, whatever they need, if they need additional force, I will grant it.”
He explained that the Taliban “subscribe to the mission as defined to get as many people out as we can” before the deadline.
Regarding whether his mistakes were responsible for the devastating events of the last week, he said, “No, I don’t. Look, I think Gen. McKenzie handled this very well. The fact is, we weren’t in a situation, we inherited a situation.”
Shockingly, he said that members of the Taliban—the same folks beheading people across Afghanistan—”are moving back the perimeter, stopping vehicles, and searching people,” suggesting that that was a good thing.
But don’t worry, because “they’re acting in their interest… no one trusts them. We’re just counting on their self-interest to continue to generate their activities. It’s in their self-interest that we leave when we said and that we get as many people out as we can.”
“It’s not a matter of trust, it’s a matter of mutual self-interest,” he again insisted. “There’s no evidence thus far, that I’ve been given… that there has been collusion between the Taliban and ISIS in carrying out what happened today.”
The president said the evacuation is “expected to continue beyond today.”
Asked how he can justify putting more troops in harm’s way, he gave an incoherent answer. “What America says matters. What we say we’re going to do in the context in which we say we’re going to do it, that we do it, unless something exceptional changes.”
“They’re not good guys, the Taliban,” he reiterated. “I’m not suggesting that at all. But they have a keen interest… they’d very much like to see how they can keep the airport open… and maintain what is a portion of the economy that is not robust but fundamentally different than it had been.”
Asked whether it was a mistake to abandon Bagram Air Base, he said that in the “best military judgment” of his commanders, “they concluded, the military, that Bagram was not much value added, that it was much better to focus on Kabul and so I focused on that recommendation.”
“I bear responsibility for fundamentally all that’s happened of late,” he confessed, but then blamed former President Trump. “Here’s the deal… you know as well as I do that a former president made a deal with the Taliban to get all forces out of Afghanistan.”
“There is a reason why there were no attacks on Americans on the date until I came into office was because the commitment was made by President Trump, ‘I will be out by May 1st. In the meantime, you agree not to attack any Americans.’ That was the deal. That’s why no Americans were attacked.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, it was time to end a 20-year war,” Biden concluded.
Despite Biden’s words of assurance, Americans stranded in Iraq are still in great peril, as are members of the U.S. military. Sadly, we have a commander-in-chief who doesn’t seem fully able to grasp the gravity of the situation and the enormity of the disaster he’s wrought. It shouldn’t have taken nine hours for him to get to the podium, but that’s been Biden’s modus operandi, both during the presidential campaign and at pivotal moments in his presidency. Biden is adrift, out of touch, and irresolute — a failed president who appears to be merely going through the motions. Exactly what the nation doesn’t need in a time of crisis.