Liberal and conservative mainstream US media alike have relentlessly bashed the Biden administration this week in the wake of the unexpectedly rapid disintegration of the US-backed government in Kabul on Sunday, two weeks before Washington’s deadline to get all American forces out of the country.
Clarissa Ward, a CNN correspondent who has been reporting from Taliban-controlled Kabul in recent days, has encouraged President Biden to own up to the US’s “failure” in Afghanistan.
In an extended interview on Afghanistan for ABC News earlier this week, President Biden insisted he didn’t consider events of the past week as evidence of “failure,” saying that his only other choice would have been to keep tens of thousands of US troops deployed in the war-torn country indefinitely, and blaming the Kabul government and the 300,000 troop-strong Afghan army for collapsing in a matter of weeks in the face of Taliban offensives.
Speaking from Kabul on Thursday, Ward called the situation on the ground at the airport “just an absolute mess” and implied that the US strategy was absolutely a failure.
“I can’t even fathom what level of desperation an individual needs to be at where they are literally throwing their baby over razor wire to try to get them to safety. But I think what that very clearly speaks to is the panic. The lack of clear information. The rumour mill is in overdrive. There’s hysteria. You have Taliban fighters with whips, with guns. You have US and UK soldiers who are not allowing people in. You have mixed messaging coming through about the kind of paperwork you need and how you can get on a flight and where you can go,” the correspondent complained.
“And we heard President Biden say yesterday in his comments to ABC News that this is not a failure. And I think a lot of people outside [the Kabul] airport, particularly those taking the kinds of extreme actions we were just talking about, would like to know: if this isn’t failure, what does failure look like, exactly?” Ward incredulously asked.
Ward wasn’t the only CNN reporter to attack the Biden administration over the Afghan fiasco his week. Also on Thursday, CNN talking head Phil Mudd blasted the State Department for its refusal to say exactly how many US nationals remain in Afghanistan amid the ongoing emergency evacuation.
“I’m not interested in hearing a US government spokesman talk about how unprecedented this is with other US presidents and how other presidents didn’t have to deal with this. I’m interested in understanding why we [evacuated] only 2,000 people in 24 hours, how we increase that pace over the next 24 hours, what the total number is that we want to get out, and how long that’s going to take,” the analyst said.
Stephen Collinson, CNN’s White House reporter, issued his own attack on Biden the same day, penning an article in which he suggested that Biden is “struggling against an intensifying examination of his judgement, competence and even his empathy over the chaotic US exit from Afghanistan,” and that “each attempt the administration makes to quell a furor that’s tarnishing America’s image only provokes more questions about its failures of planning and execution.”
“Biden is failing to adequately explain why he so badly failed to predict the swift collapse of the Afghan state. And his credibility has been sullied because his confident downplaying of the risks of the withdrawal has been repeatedly confounded by events. Seven months into his term, Biden no longer gets credit simply for not being Donald Trump,” Collinson wrote.
CNN’s overwhelmingly negative reporting on the Afghanistan debacle has been echoed by other traditionally pro-Biden, pro-Democratic Party networks, including MSNBC and ABC News. In his interview with Biden this week, ABC News host George Stephanopoulos avoided the traditional softball questions for the president and repeatedly clashed with Biden in a manner reminiscent of the media’s testy exchanges with former president Donald Trump, and suggesting that Biden should have kept a small number of troops stationed in the country permanently.
A defiant Biden pushed back, saying the US could no longer engage in “nation building” and that there was “no good time to leave Afghanistan.” As for the suggestion that the US could have left a limited contingent of troops in the country, Biden said this was impossible because of the 2020 US-Taliban peace deal, and because the militants would resume attacks on US forces if Washington did not keep its word and leave. He added that he would have signed off on the decision to withdraw even without the Trump Taliban deal.
Don’t forget Biden used to love nation-building in Afghanistan: pic.twitter.com/wAYzzZFkVU
— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) August 18, 2021
Conservative mainstream media have also been attacking Biden over the Afghanistan situation, with Fox News largely echoing liberal outlets in their criticisms, but with the caveat that Donald Trump might have somehow done a better job if he were still at the helm. In a statement Thursday, Trump blasted Biden and his “woke Generals’” over their evacuation strategy, and suggested that the US should blow up its abandoned bases in Afghanistan. Earlier, the former president suggested that Biden should “resign in disgrace” over the Afghanistan debacle, and implied that the problem wasn’t that the US had left Afghanistan, but “the grossly incompetent way we left!” Last week, former Trump CIA chief and secretary of state Mike Pompeo claimed that the Republican president threatened a Taliban negotiator that he would bomb the militants’ villages and homes if they threatened, scared or hurt Americans.
The US and NATO-backed Afghan government which has been propped up by the West for nearly 20 years collapsed Sunday, just over four months after Biden announced the withdrawal of US forces, and less than two weeks after the Taliban captured its first major city. Brown University’s Costs of War Project estimates that the US has spent some $2.26 trillion on the war in Afghanistan over the past two decades. More than 100,000 Afghan civilians, tens of thousands of Afghan security forces personnel and Taliban fighters, about 3,500 US and NATO troops, and 4,000+ Western mercenaries were killed in that time, with hundreds of thousands more injured, and millions becoming refugees.