The White House invoked the personal tragedies experienced by President Joe Biden when asked about his response to a drone strike in Afghanistan that killed 10 civilians and declined to say whether someone in the line of command should be held accountable for the errant attack.
“As a human being, as a president, as somebody who has overseen loss in a variety of scenarios, both as a leader and personally, his reaction is, it is a tragedy,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday. On Friday, the Defense Department confirmed the strike killed 10 civilians, including seven children and an aid worker, rather than a terrorist threatening Americans. Biden was briefed Friday morning ahead of the Pentagon’s announcement.
Asked whether a military officer should be held accountable, Psaki declined to say and instead pointed to the investigation and circumstances under which the strike occurred.
“The Secretary of Defense and [Gen. Kenneth McKenzie] came forward and made very clear that ... they wanted to learn from what had happened,” Psaki said, adding that at the time of the strike, U.S. troops in Afghanistan were facing “direct threats” from ISIS-K militants.
“Obviously, it was done in error. Obviously, there was a horrific tragedy that happened,” she continued. “But I’m not going to get into what the impact will be.”
Biden and those who know him have often cited his personal losses as markers of the president’s empathy.
Earlier this year, alluding to the death of the president’s first wife, Neilia, and daughter Naomi, in a car crash in 1972, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Biden had his “own personal reasons for feeling very deeply” about a case involving a teenage motorcyclist killed by a suspected CIA agent driving on the wrong side of the road in England.
The families of fallen U.S. service members who died during a Kabul suicide bombing last month and who later met with Biden said the president mentioned the death of his son Beau, a military veteran, at times offending them.
The father of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, Mark, reported a tense exchange with Biden at Dover Air Base after agreeing to meet with the president following the death of his son in the attack.
In an interview with NPR, Schmitz said he told Biden, who was looking at a picture of his son, “‘That’s Jared, that’s Jared Schmitz. Don’t ever forget that name, and don’t forget the name of the 12 others.’”
Biden “barked back” at him, Schmitz said, saying, “I know their stories.”
“My first thought was, ‘That’s literally impossible. Why are you arguing with me,’” Schmitz recounted. “And then, of course, he mentions his son again.”
Another parent of a Marine killed in Kabul relayed a similar account. Shana Chappell, mother of Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, said Biden “rolled his eyes” at her during a meeting at Dover after bringing up his son Beau’s death.
“Remember i am the one who stood five inches from your face and was letting you know i would never get to hug my son again, hear his laugh and then you tried to interrupt me and give me your own sob story and i had to tell you ‘that this isn’t about you so don’t make it about you!!!’” Chappell wrote on Instagram.
“You then said you just wanted me to know that you know how i feel and i let you know that you don’t know how i feel and you do not have the right to tell me you know how i feel! U then rolled your f***ing eyes in your head like you were annoyed with me….i then proceeded to tell you again how you took my son away from me and how i will never get to hug him, kiss him, laugh with him again etc… u turned to walk away and i let you know my sons blood was on your hands and you threw your hand up behind you as you walked away from me,” Chappell wrote.
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Original Author: Katherine Doyle