• May 28, 2023

Former US officials say Biden team needs ‘shake-up’ following Afghanistan debacle

 Former US officials say Biden team needs ‘shake-up’ following Afghanistan debacle


Former White House officials are faulting President Joe Biden’s closest advisers for the chaotic drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan, charging it is up to them to deliver tough messages the commander in chief may be reluctant to hear.

“Biden has got to shake up his national security team,” said Brett Bruen, a former U.S. diplomat and Obama White House official, conceding that while responsibility ultimately lies with Biden, his most senior advisers should be accountable for how the administration executed its strategy. Biden’s exit from Afghanistan, Bruen said, was an “unmitigated disaster.

Bruen, who worked as National Security Council director of global engagement during the Obama administration, argued Biden’s top national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, who is among the president’s closest advisers, “has got to be able to speak truth to power.”

“While Biden may have been dead set on pulling our troops out of Afghanistan, he needed to be the one to say, ‘Mr. President, we’re going to achieve your goal. Here are several options that we can consider where it won’t cause such catastrophic collateral damage,’” Bruen said. “That clearly didn’t happen. And the consequences are now obvious to everyone.”


On Monday, chaotic scenes from Kabul’s airport showed crowds of people desperate to flee the country as the Taliban takeover set in. Videos showed people clinging to an airplane taking off along the runway. Later, at least one person was seen plummeting to their death from the sky.

The moment was a swift turn from just six weeks ago when Biden called a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan “highly unlikely.” But hours after the insurgent group cemented control of the country, the president conceded Kabul’s fall had always been a possibility, though it happened faster than the White House had anticipated. He did not say why.

Still, Biden said he stood “squarely behind” the decision in remarks at the White House on Monday, despite the “hard and messy” exit.

“The buck stops with me,” the president said, though he gave little explanation on how the withdrawal came to be this way.

Biden has criticized the Afghanistan mission for more than 10 years, arguing against  committing more troops to the country while he was vice president. On the campaign trail, Biden maintained the U.S. troop presence failed to serve American interests. But once he took office, weeks ticked by before the president announced his decision to leave. This decision came in April, one month before a May 1 deadline brokered by former President Donald Trump with Taliban leaders.

“No one can defend the execution here. It’s a disaster,” said David Axelrod, a top adviser to Obama in the White House, on CNN. “It’s a failure, and [Biden] needs to own that failure.”

There is plenty of blame to go around, and not simply on the White House, said Allison Jaslow, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and a former Obama White House official. Jaslow called it “mind-boggling” that ground-level troops in Afghanistan could have predicted this outcome better than high-ranking defense officials and general officers.

Given the chance, Jaslow said, “I’d be asking some very tough questions for the people who gave the president the belief that the Afghan forces were in stronger shape than we’ve seen unfold right before our eyes.”

One Democratic lawmaker and former Obama State Department official pointed to the “irony” of sending thousands of troops back into the country to secure Americans’ safe exit as Taliban insurgents encircled Kabul, then the Hamid Karzai International Airport where Afghan translators and allies were awaiting emergency evacuations.

New Jersey Rep. Tom Malinowski, a Democrat and former State Department official, told  Politico securing the airport will require “more troops than what we had before President Biden made this decision.”

“Let the irony sink in,” he said. “The question is, is this going to be Saigon or Dunkirk?”

Former White House and administration officials, such as Bruen, argued Biden’s top advisers should bear the brunt of the fallout but were unlikely to.

“The White House appears to be closed for vacation, and when you’re deploying 6,000 American troops to a crisis that Americans can watch on TV, you need to look like you are as responsive as possible,” said Rory Cooper, who joined former President George W. Bush’s White House Office for Homeland Security following the events of 9/11. “The president can do his job at Camp David. But there is a need to project that this is your first and only priority right now.”

After spending the weekend at Camp David, Biden traveled briefly to Washington on Monday to give remarks in the East Room before swiftly returning, a decision Cooper criticized. Meanwhile, several top officials, including the White House press secretary, are out of office on vacation.

Cooper singled out the president’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, a longtime Biden adviser and Democratic Party operative.

“The chief of staff’s job is to get staff to help manage the crisis and help the president manage the crisis. And right now, it appears that they’re trying to protect vacations instead,” Cooper said.

“Immediately flying back to Camp David without taking any questions makes [Biden] appear like he’s hiding from this crisis,” he added. “The chief of staff’s job is to manage that scheduling and that appearance.”

But this isn’t just a matter of optics.

“It’s about what actually is occurring on the ground in Afghanistan,” Cooper said. “The chief of staff is there to counsel the president and give him frank and credible advice and help him avoid situations exactly like this.”

According to Bruen, political leaders at the National Security Council and State Department advising Biden on the exit lacked institutional know-how and failed to seek it out.

By contrast, former President Barack Obama’s National Security Council “had a number of career diplomats, defense, and development experts in charge of various directorates,” he said. Today, “the Africa director is the only position where you have someone with recent relevant experience working at the White House — that’s a problem.”

He argued this split between Biden’s political advisers and career officials has led to other bruising issues during the president’s first six months in office.

“It has created issues on the border; it has created issues with how they’ve handled Cuba and Israel. And now Afghanistan,” Bruen said. “This isn’t their first unforced error.”

Public support for the withdrawal has plummeted, according to a new Morning Consult/ Politico poll conducted from Aug. 13-16 with a sample of 1,999 registered voters.

Forty-nine percent support the withdrawal, a 20 percentage point drop since April when 69% backed it.

Cooper said he was skeptical the crisis would lead to staffing changes.

“Thirty years ago in Washington, this may have caused a staff shake-up or national security shake-up, but these days, the norm seems to be to ride out the criticism,” he said.


Besides, he added, “to shake up the staff would be to admit that what has unfolded is a catastrophe. And the president’s remarks today make clear that he is not going to acknowledge that.”

Just In…



Share on:
Freedom vs Tyranny

Editor @Investigator_50