The charitable read is that he wanted to keep the focus on the feds’ emergency response to Hurricane Ida on a day when New Orleans was being devastated. That’s what the FEMA photo op was about, after all.
The less charitable read is that he’s out of answers on what’s happening in Kabul and is irritated at being put on the spot about it again.
Could be a bit of both. Slapping the lectern before he strides off does suggest a certain frustration. Watch, then read on.
Biden: “I’m not supposed to take any questions, but go ahead”
Reporter: “Mr. President, on Afghanistan”
Biden: “I’m not going to answer Afghanistan now”
— Mona Salama (@MonaSalama_) August 30, 2021
Maybe he didn’t want to be asked about this horrifying new NYT story describing the latest batch of Afghans to end up on a “kill list” provided to the Taliban by the United States. The U.S. has reportedly been supplying the jihadis with names of western-allied Afghans who should be allowed to pass through checkpoints en route to the airport. The obvious flaw in that process is that we’re making their identities as “friendlies” known to the new regime. If the Taliban decides not to let them pass, those friendlies sitting ducks for reprisals. Hence the uproar last week over “kill lists.”
The Times story describes a bus full of Afghan students and staff from the American University in Kabul making one last run for the airport with the clock ticking down to tomorrow’s deadline. They drove around for seven hours — only to receive emails en route from the school’s administration announcing that the civilian portion of the evacuation was over. It was military-only from now on. But that’s not the worst part:
The group was then alarmed after the U.S. military, following protocol, shared a list of names and passport information of hundreds of students and their families with the Taliban guarding the airport checkpoints, the university president said…
When the Taliban took over Kabul on Aug. 15, one of the first sites the group captured was the sprawling, modern American University campus. Men in traditional Afghan outfits swinging AK-47 rifles brought down the university flag and raised the flag of the Taliban, according to student and social media photos.
The Taliban posted a picture of themselves on social media standing at the entrance of a university building with an ominous message, saying this was where America trained infidel “wolves” to corrupt the minds of Muslims.
Jake Tapper asked Jake Sullivan about the kill lists yesterday. We have not provided any master list of Afghan friendlies to the Taliban, an indignant Sullivan insisted. Okay, said Tapper, but what about lists of smaller specific groups aimed at getting them through Taliban checkpoints? A non-comprehensive kill list is still a kill list. Sullivan dodged the question:
And over on CNN, Jake Tapper grilled NSA Jake Sullivan on the administration giving a “kill list” to the Taliban. Sullivan’s argument was that they didn’t give them “all” the names just small lists. But he couldn’t say if the small lists were used against Americans or allies. pic.twitter.com/zflv5ZHoY0
— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) August 29, 2021
WaPo also reported last night on hope running out for Afghans with SIVs and even some with U.S. green cards as the evacuation turns from getting friendlies out to getting our own troops home. American soldiers have been put in the impossible position of having to make judgment calls about whether someone’s documentation is sufficient to allow them into the airport or to turn them away, potentially dooming them to be killed. The “Pineapple Express” and other valiant on-the-fly private efforts to get Afghan allies to safety can only do so much. Some will be left behind:
One of the Afghan military’s elite commandos, who have worked closely with the United States, said he had been trying to get the attention of U.S. officials for days to appeal for assistance getting out.
“We cannot reach our U.S. mentors in order to help us,” he said in an email, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid drawing Taliban attention. “We need an emergency evacuation like the other Afghan soldiers, but we cannot get inside the Kabul airport unless we have some supporting documents or recommendations directly from inside the airport.”
The Taliban has been calling him, he said.
We’re going to end up offering the Taliban something in exchange for the lives of guys like that. And it’s anyone’s guess whether that something will prove more valuable to them than torturing and killing him to make an example of “traitors” will.
I’ll leave you with this. It’s clear now that no one except military is getting out in the next 48 hours.
What was once packed with people, now wears a deserted look – The entrance to the Abbey Gate from Barron Hotel side is now under entirely the control of the Taliban with Foreign troops nowhere to be spotted in their watch towers. #Kabul #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/XgVPSqE0AQ
— Anas Mallick (@AnasMallick) August 30, 2021