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John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, said Thursday that the Biden administration is “proud” of its botched withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.
Kirby appeared at a White House press briefing to discuss the administration’s newly released review of the chaotic withdrawal, which was marked by a suicide bombing at Kabul’s airport that killed 13 American service members and more than 100 Afghans.
The State Department and the Pentagon on Thursday shared classified reviews of the withdrawal with members of Congress “examining their decision-making processes and execution.” While the classified documents will not be shared publicly, the NSC released a document that the White House said “provides our perspectives, outlines in broad strokes some of what we learned, and how we have already implemented those lessons in other global challenges.”
That 12-page summary places much of the blame on the Trump administration, saying President Biden was “severely constrained” by former president Trump’s decisions. When Biden entered office, it says, “the Taliban were in the strongest military position that they had been in since 2001, controlling or contesting nearly half of the country.”
The report also cites inaccurate intelligence community assessments about the Afghan army’s willingness to fight.
Reporters pressed Kirby on Thursday, asking whether the president has any regrets about how the withdrawal was carried out.
“The president is very proud about the manner in which the men and women of the military, the foreign service, the intelligence community and on and on and on conducted this withdrawal,” he said. “I’ve been around operations my entire life and there’s not a single one that ever goes perfectly according to plan.”
“For all this talk of chaos, I just didn’t see it. Not from my perch,” Kirby said.
Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked Kirby, “Who is going to get fired over this?”
Kirby responded that the purpose of the document is to collate the reviews and findings of the after-action reviews and that the purpose of the document “is not accountability.”
Doocy then asked how Biden can ever trust what the intelligence community tells him after receiving bad intel in regards to the withdrawal.
“What I said was intelligence is a hard business and they get it right a lot too,” Kirby replied. “There were some pieces here that weren’t accurate and we’re being nothing but honest with you and the American people about what those inaccuracies were and how they shaped some of the decision making that was laid before the president and the questions that he asked. This document and this effort isn’t about accountability today, it’s about understanding .”
He said the document today is one step in a “long process to better understand and comprehend and adjust to what we learned and what we did in Afghanistan.”
Doocy continued to push back saying, “There were children being killed. There were people hanging off of Air Force jets that were leaving and you’re saying that you guys are proud of the way this mission was conducted? Of that?”
Kirby said: “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 toward citizenship? You bet.”
“But does that mean everything went perfect in that evacuation? Of course not,” he said.
He later added, “Nobody is saying that everything is 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, Peter.”