US President Joe Biden exploded in frustration when he heard the news on August 15, 2021, that former president Ashraf Ghani had fled the country.
In a much awaited book, “The Last Politician”, journalist Franklin Foer writes that on August 12, 2021, Biden left Washington DC for a vacation at Camp David. Three days later, his National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told him that Ghani had fled Afghanistan and that the Taliban were poised to enter Kabul.
“Biden exploded in frustration” when he heard the news and exclaimed, “Give me a break!” according to the book, which is due to be released to the public on Tuesday, September 5.
The White House staff at the time had expected a gradual handover of responsibility to the republic government and many high-ranking officials, including Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left for vacation. The then White House press secretary Jen Psaki was also on vacation.
Foer wrote that on August 16, 2021 — the day after Ghani fled Kabul — “images of Afghans falling from the sky” were broadcast around the world. When Psaki saw the chaotic scenes at Kabul airport, Psaki knew she had to leave her family vacation.
According to Foer, Psaki wrote to then-White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain: “I’m contemplating coming back,” and Klain responded: “I’m sorry. I think you need to.”
Foer’s book notes that Biden took an active interest in the evacuation, throwing out ideas to get more people on planes and out of the country and asking to be updated when individual people had made it safely out of Afghanistan, Fox News reported.
The Biden administration evacuated more than 120,000 people from Afghanistan as the country collapsed under Taliban pressure. However, that “improvised feat of logistics” failed to overcome the impression that the Biden administration was reacting slowly, Foer wrote.
He also stated in his book that “[i]n the thick of the crisis, Biden didn’t have time to voraciously consume the news, but he was well aware of the tough coverage. ‘We’re getting killed,’ he would admit. It frustrated him to no end.”
However, the criticism did nothing to change Biden’s mind about leaving Afghanistan. “In fact, everything he’d witnessed from his seat in the Situation Room confirmed his belief that exiting a war without hope was the best and only course,” Foer writes.