A new book, “The Last Politician” by journalist Franklin Foer, unveils the explosive reaction of President Biden upon learning that the president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, had fled Kabul ahead of the Taliban’s takeover in 2021. This article delves into the book’s revelations, shedding light on the inner workings of the White House during the tumultuous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
A President’s Explosive Reaction:
In August 2021, as President Biden was set to embark on a mid-August vacation at Camp David, he received startling news from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The news of Ghani’s escape and the imminent Taliban takeover of Kabul triggered a frustrated outburst from President Biden, exclaiming, “Give me a break!” This pivotal moment in the crisis is documented in “The Last Politician.”
A Chaotic Unfolding:
The Biden administration had anticipated a gradual handover of responsibilities to the Afghan government until August 31, 2021. However, the rapid advance of the Taliban caught them off guard, and Ghani’s hasty departure exacerbated the chaotic situation.
Vacation Amid Crisis:
Remarkably, key White House officials, including President Biden himself, were on vacation when Ghani fled Kabul. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in the Hamptons, and then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki was enjoying a family vacation at the beach.
A Turning Point:
The chaotic scenes at Hamid Karzai International Airport, with desperate Afghans clinging to a departing U.S. military aircraft, shook the world. These images prompted Psaki to cut short her vacation. She reached out to then-White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, contemplating her return to Washington.
Biden’s Active Involvement:
Despite the challenging circumstances, President Biden actively engaged in the evacuation efforts. He offered suggestions to expedite the evacuation, requested updates on individual evacuees’ statuses, and remained committed to ensuring the safe departure of as many people as possible.
Mixed Reactions and Tough Criticism:
The Biden administration successfully evacuated over 120,000 people from Afghanistan, but the perception of a slow response lingered. The toughest criticism came not only from conservative media but also from respected columnists and reporters. The book reveals that President Biden acknowledged the tough coverage and expressed frustration.
Despite the criticism, President Biden remained resolute in his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. He maintained his belief that leaving a war with no hope was the best and only course of action. His convictions were unwavering, even in the face of opposition from foreign policy elites.
“The Last Politician” offers a revealing look at President Biden’s response to the Afghanistan crisis, highlighting the challenges, frustrations, and unwavering determination that marked this tumultuous period. Franklin Foer’s book provides a comprehensive perspective on the first two years of President Biden’s presidency, including the turbulent withdrawal from Afghanistan.