The Biden administration has “a lot to be proud of” in how it handled the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the White House said on April 6.
The remarks by National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby came as the administration released a 12-page summary of classified reports that mostly blamed the chaotic U.S. pullout from Afghanistan on his predecessor, Donald Trump, for failing to plan for the withdrawal he had agreed on with the Taliban.
Kirby was asked if the administration had any regrets upon reviewing how it handled the withdrawal, to which the spokesperson replied that President Joe Biden was “very proud” of how the military, foreign service, and intelligence community conducted the operation.
Later when pressed again on if the administration was proud of how it conducted the mission, given chaotic scenes at Kabul’s international airport showing Afghans desperate to flee Taliban rule with some handing babies to U.S. troops or breaking in and hanging onto departing aircraft, Kirby confirmed that the president is happy with how the military acted.
“Proud of the fact that we got more than 124,000 people safely out of Afghanistan. You bet. Proud of the fact that American troops were able to seize control of a defunct airport and get it operational in 48 hours. You bet. Proud of the fact that we now have about 100,000 Afghans, our former allies and partners living in this country and working towards citizenship. You bet,” Kirby said.
“Does that mean that everything went perfect in that evacuation? Of course not.”
He continued: “Nobody’s saying that everything was perfect. But there was a lot that went right. And a lot of Afghans are now living better lives in this country and other countries around the world because of the sacrifices and the work of so many American government officials. So yeah, there’s a lot to be proud of.”
The administration’s review acknowledged that the evacuation of Americans and allies from Afghanistan should have begun sooner, but attributes the delays to the Afghan government and military and to assessments by the U.S. military and intelligence community.
The administration stated that the State Department and Pentagon sent evaluations with additional information to Congress in confidence on April 6, and that those documents were highly classified and would not be made public.
There are presently two Congressional investigations into the withdrawal. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who requested documents from Blinken in January, is leading one of them.
McCaul’s committee signed a subpoena on March 28 for Secretary of State Antony Blinken to obtain a July 2021 Dissent Channel cable that is believed to have warned the administration of a lack of proper preparation Biden’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, according to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s March 27 press release.
“We have made multiple good faith attempts to find common ground so we could see this critical piece of information. Unfortunately, Secretary Blinken has refused to provide the Dissent Cable and his response to the cable, forcing me to issue my first subpoena as chairman of this committee,” the statement read.
The committee asserts that this cable and Blinken’s response are crucial documents as they reveal what information State Department employees who were on the ground provided to Blinken about a month before the evacuation and the secretary’s response.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.