Tell that to the Abandoned: CBS Rips Biden Admin Spinning Afghan Crisis

News & Politics

With the final military planes off the tarmac and out of Afghan airspace, the Biden administration was desperate to try to paint their deadly disaster as some sort of success. Each of the press secretaries and top officials at the White House, State Department, and Pentagon parroted the same talking point that it was the largest airlift in U.S. history. But CBS News popped their bubble Monday as they pointed out how the “hundreds” of Americans they abandoned in the terrorist haven would beg to differ.

During their Special Report break-in for the Pentagon press conference with U.S. CENTCOM General Kenneth McKenzie, senior White House correspondent Ed O’Keefe seemed taken aback by the praise given to the Taliban. “What was most interesting, I thought in listening to General McKenzie is him describing what he called a ‘pragmatic relationship of necessity’ with the Taliban,” he said.

From there, he noted that the “pragmatic relationship” had resulted in hundreds of Americans being abandoned in Taliban-controlled territory and their families would have some serious questions for McKenzie and the rest of the Biden administration:

And as you heard him say – some bad news in there. There are likely Americans and certainly plenty eligible Afghans who didn’t make it to the airport, couldn’t even make it in the final hours because of the situation on the ground. And there will continue to be a lot of questions from journalists, from friends and family of those people, from members of Congress about why they weren’t able to get through and what will be done in the coming days and weeks to get them out?

A couple of minutes later, Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell scoffed at the idea that the airlift was a success to foreign affairs correspondent Christina Ruffini. “And Christina, as was mentioned, this was the largest airlift in American history. And yet, hundreds of Americans were left behind. What do we know about them?

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Ruffini recalled talking to an unnamed State Department official who claimed the debacle that left 13 American service members dead, almost 200 Afghan civilians blown to bits, and hundreds of Americans trapped “was a highly efficient and highly effective operation.” But she blew that off, noting: “But I am sure it doesn’t feel that way to the Americans and Afghans left behind.

Later on, during CBS Evening News, O’Keefe was back and reported that while “roughly 6,000 Americans were pulled out in the last 16 days” Biden had left “hundreds” of American “behind,” not to mention the “thousands of Afghan allies who hoped to get out.” Adding: “The evacuation caps one of the largest in modern history and the end of a catastrophic period for President Biden.”

In wrapping up O’Keefe’s segment, O’Donnell asked about what was Biden’s plan going forward to get those Americans out. And according to his reporting, the President didn’t plan to address the nation until sometime tomorrow and trusted the Taliban:

O’DONNELL: And Ed joins us again from the White House. So what happens to those Americans that are still in Afghanistan?

O’KEEFE: Well Norah, the President says he plans to address the nation on all of this tomorrow. But in a statement tonight he said he instructed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to work with global partners to ensure the safe passage of any Americans, Afghans, or other foreign nationals who want to leave that country. He said the Taliban have made commitments to their safe passage and quote, “the world will hold them to their commitments.”

“A new chapter is beginning tonight in Afghanistan,” he concluded.

The transcript is below, click “expand” to read:

CBS News Special Report for Pentagon Press Conference
August 30, 2021
5:00:26 p.m. Eastern

(…)

NORAH O’DONNELL: And Ed, this is quite a milestone for President Biden.

ED O’KEEFE: That’s right. It is Tuesday now in Afghanistan, Norah. It’s been 7,268 days since U.S. forces entered there in response to 9/11. President Biden – several times in recent months, has said four U.S. presidents oversaw this war, he did not want to pass it to a fifth.

What was most interesting, I thought in listening to General McKenzie is him describing what he called a “pragmatic relationship of necessity” with the Taliban. Didn’t call it a partnership or didn’t call them an ally. Said it was a “pragmatic relationship of necessity” that existed over the last two weeks or so as this historic evacuation continued.

And as you heard him say – some bad news in there. There are likely Americans and certainly plenty eligible Afghans who didn’t make it to the airport, couldn’t even make it in the final hours because of the situation on the ground. And there will continue to be a lot of questions from journalists, from friends and family of those people, from members of Congress about why they weren’t able to get through and what will be done in the coming days and weeks to get them out?

We asked here at the White house today, what is the message to them? And the Biden administration makes clear that the commitment remains to get them out, but it’s going be quite difficult.

(…)

5:02:10 p.m. Eastern

O’DONNELL: Let’s bring in Christina Ruffini at the State Department. And Christina, as was mentioned, this was the largest airlift in American history. And yet, hundreds of Americans were left behind. What do we know about them?

CHRISTINA RUFFINI: Well, you heard General McKenzie be very frank about that. He said, “we did not get everybody out that we wanted to get out.”

Look, some of the last four people out of that airport – the last four diplomats included a consular officer, and that was so if someone got in the gate, if someone showed up at the last minute they were ready to process those Americans and get them on the plane and safely evacuate them. But as the General said, in the last four hours, they just weren’t able to make it to the airport. And that’s something we’ve heard over and over and over again.

Look, families CBS was talking to last night, Americans with blue passports just couldn’t navigate the difficulties of Taliban checkpoints, gates that rotated close, and ever since there was the explosion around the gates on Thursday it has been a really, really highly tense situation. It has been incredibly difficult not just for Americans but almost impossible for Afghans and Afghan allies, including those SIVs – those special immigrant visas – to get in the door.

We asked earlier today a State Department official if they consider this evacuation a success? And while acknowledging the situation in the ground, that individual said, “it was a highly efficient and highly effective operation.” But I am sure it doesn’t feel that way to the Americans and Afghans left behind.

(…)

CBS Evening News
6:33:51 p.m. Eastern

O’KEEFE: Earlier, in the frantic closing hours of the evacuation, military aircraft had to shoot off flairs to divert potential rocket attacks. Roughly 6,000 Americans were pulled out in the last 16 days but hundreds likely remain behind as do thousands of Afghan allies who hoped to get out. The evacuation caps one of the largest in modern history and the end of a catastrophic period for President Biden.

(…)

6:35:00 p.m. Eastern

O’DONNELL: And Ed joins us again from the White House. So what happens to those Americans that are still in Afghanistan?

O’KEEFE: Well Norah, the President says he plans to address the nation on all of this tomorrow. But in a statement tonight he said he instructed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to work with global partners to ensure the safe passage of any Americans, Afghans, or other foreign nationals who want to leave that country. He said the Taliban have made commitments to their safe passage and quote, “the world will hold them to their commitments.” A new chapter is beginning tonight in Afghanistan.

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