During his press conference on Thursday following the terrorist attack in Afghanistan that killed 13 U.S. servicemembers, President Biden blamed his generals for the decision to leave Bagram Air Base behind and did not deny reports that his administration gave the Taliban a list of Americans stranded in the region.
On the issue of Bagram Air Base, President Biden said that he made the decision to essentially abandon the location upon his generals’ advice:
The White House / YouTube
On the tactical questions of how to conduct an evacuation or a war, I gather up all the major military personnel that are in Afghanistan, the commanders, as well as the Pentagon. I ask for their best military judgment – what would be the most efficient way to accomplish the mission. They concluded, the military, that Bagram Air Base was not much value-added, that it was much wiser to focus on Kabul. So I followed that recommendation.
As noted by Andrew McCarthy of National Review, Biden’s decision to leave Bagram Air Base contributed to the terror attack at the airport in Kabul, since it signaled to the Taliban that the United States would not be able to mount a counter-offensive as the U.S. military pulled out of the region:
The Bagram bug-out was not merely a shameful episode; it was for Biden a tactical retreat. The Taliban were surging, the Afghan military forces were collapsing, and Biden knew that U.S. commanders wanted to keep a force presence and continue supporting the Afghan government. If there were to be any thought of reversing course, maintaining control of Bagram would have been essential. By not just slashing the in-country troop presence but surrendering Bagram — and in a consciously chaotic and sneaky way that deprived the Afghan forces an orderly transfer at a time when they were under siege and steadily losing their U.S.-dependent capacity to function — the Biden administration guaranteed that there would be no turning back from the decision to pull out. No matter how bad things got, U.S. commanders would have no military options. Besides having surrendered their fortress, they would be down to just 600 troops — not even enough to secure the airport in Kabul and U.S. diplomatic personnel in a real crisis.
A Blackhawk helicopter pilot who served in Afghanistan explains why Bagram was the superior choice over Kabul International Airport: pic.twitter.com/V3GTmmr7vD
— David Sacks (@DavidSacks) August 26, 2021
On Thursday, Politico reported that U.S. officials gave the Taliban a list of names of Americans, green card holders, and Afghan allies in the region, hoping it would expedite the evacuation. Lawmakers have reportedly expressed outrage over this tactic behind closed doors, saying the administration bequeathed the Taliban a “kill list.” When asked about this alleged list, President Biden did not deny its existence while explaining that the U.S. military would sometimes inform the Taliban about a certain group of people traveling to the airport in Kabul:
There have been occasions where our military has contacted their military counterparts in the Taliban and said, for example, “This bus is coming through with X number of people on it made up of the following group of people. We want you to let that bus or that group through.”
So yes there have been occasions like that, and to the best of my knowledge, in those cases, when the bulk of that has occurred, they have been let through. But I can’t tell you with any servitude that there has actually been a list of names. There may have been, but I know of no circumstance. That doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.
Following the attack, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) tacitly criticized the Biden administration for trusting the Taliban to help secure Americans. “As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security,” he said.