In a newly released book, it was revealed that upon learning of Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani’s escape from Kabul just before the Taliban’s takeover in 2021, President Biden was exasperated, voicing his frustration with a sharp “Give me a break!” This revelation comes from Franklin Foer’s upcoming book “The Last Politician,” which offers an in-depth look into the White House’s operations during the turbulent evacuation from Afghanistan in 2021.
On August 12, 2021, Biden headed to Camp David, anticipating a mid-August respite. Merely three days afterward, Jake Sullivan, the National Security Advisor, delivered the unsettling news about Ghani’s abrupt departure in light of the Taliban’s imminent entry into the capital.
Biden wasn’t alone in taking a break when this upheaval transpired. Afghanistan’s rapid and unforeseen developments caught many top-ranking officials, including White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, off-guard during their respective holidays. The initial plan of a phased power transfer to the Afghan government was upended by the end of August as the Taliban quickly advanced, forcing Ghani to flee for his safety.
The chaotic nature of the withdrawal became palpably clear on August 16, 2021, when, during a frantic evacuation effort, desperate Afghans clung to a U.S. C-17 military aircraft, with some tragically falling mid-flight. According to Foer, these harrowing images propelled Psaki to cut short her vacation.
Despite facing sharp criticism, Biden remained actively involved in the evacuation efforts, consistently brainstorming ways to evacuate more individuals and ensuring their safety. The U.S. successfully managed the evacuation of over 120,000 people amid the crisis. Yet, Foer observes that the swift and impromptu evacuation strategies couldn’t shield the administration from criticisms from conservative outlets and well-regarded journalists and columnists.
While Biden acknowledged the harsh media scrutiny, saying, “We’re getting killed,” Foer notes that such critiques did little to shift the President’s conviction about the rightness of the withdrawal decision. Biden was steadfast in his belief, having long been skeptical of the optimistic projections by foreign policy experts.
Foer’s comprehensive account, chronicling the initial two years of Biden’s term up to the 2022 midterms, is set to be published by Penguin Random House next Tuesday.