Coming Unglued: 20 Mistakes Joe Biden Made in Bumbling Afghanistan Interview

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 12: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks during an East Room event at the White House August 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden spoke on “how his Build Back Better agenda will lower prescription drug prices.” (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Joe Biden sat for an interview with ABC News host George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday to discuss the disaster unfolding in Afghanistan and his failure to prepare for the Taliban to seize control of the government.

But the president struggled and frequently stammered throughout the interview contradicting his previous statements and getting basic facts wrong.

Here is a list of where Biden went wrong:

1. Biden claims there was no consensus among intelligence agencies that the Taliban would take control of Afghanistan

From the transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s get right to it. Back in July, you said a Taliban takeover was highly unlikely. Was the intelligence wrong, or did you downplay it?

BIDEN: I think — there was no consensus. If you go back and look at the intelligence reports, they said that it’s more likely to be sometime by the end of the year. The idea that the tal — and then it goes further on, even as late as August. I think you’re gonna see — the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others speaking about this later today.

Stephanopoulos called out Biden’s lie about his remarks in July.

“But you didn’t put a timeline on it when you said it was highly unlikely. You just said flat out, ‘It’s highly unlikely the Taliban would take over,'” he said.

Stephanopoulos was right. In July, Biden adamantly denied that intelligence agencies estimated a Taliban takeover.

“That’s not true,” he said when a reporter told him that the intelligence community had assessed the Afghan government would collapse.

“That is not true. They did not — they didn’t — did not reach that conclusion,” he repeated.

2. Biden claims he always said there was a “real possibility” that the Taliban would seize control of Afghanistan

“Well, by the end of the year, I said that’s that was — that was a real possibility. But no one said it was gonna take over then when it was bein’ asked,” he said to Stephanopoulos.

Biden never made that claim, and actually repeatedly denied that it was inevitable.

3. Biden defends ‘withdrawal’ from Afghanistan as a “simple choice” while also surging troops back into the region

From the transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: So when you look at what’s happened over the last week, was it a failure of intelligence, planning, execution or judgment?

BIDEN: Look, I don’t think it was a fa — look, it was a simple choice, George. When the — when the Taliban — let me back — put it another way. When you had the government of Afghanistan, the leader of that government get in a plane and taking off and going to another country, when you saw the significant collapse of the ta — of the — Afghan troops we had trained — up to 300,000 of them just leaving their equipment and taking off, that was — you know, I’m not — this — that — that’s what happened.

Biden claimed his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was a “simple choice” – ignoring his decision to not only extend the war by extending the deadline by redeploying 6,000 troops back to Afghanistan to help secure the Kabul airport. As the situation got worse, Biden escalated troop deployments with a mini-surge.

4. Biden claims Afghanistan had up to 300,000 troops trained by the United States. 

From the transcript:

BIDEN: Yeah. Well, the question was whether or not it w — the idea that the Taliban would take over was premised on the notion that the — that somehow, the 300,000 troops we had trained and equipped was gonna just collapse, they were gonna give up. I don’t think anybody anticipated that.

Military experts have pointed out that the 300,000 number is highly inflated, even counting “ghost” soldiers that were drawing paychecks but did not show up for duty.

In this photograph taken on May 3, 2017, Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers train at the Kabul Military training centre (KMTC) on the outskirts of Kabul. Fresh recruits to Afghanistan's elite special operations forces will soon be on the frontline of the war against a resurgent Taliban -- a battle US President Donald Trump has vowed "to win" by putting more American boots on the ground indefinitely. Camp Morehead, a former Soviet base near Kabul, is one of two training bases where the commandos are drilled by Afghan instructors in a programme overseen by US-led international forces. / AFP PHOTO / SHAH MARAI / TO GO WITH: Afghanistan-army-conflict, FOCUS by Anne CHAON (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP via Getty Images)

In this photograph taken on May 3, 2017, Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers train at the Kabul Military training centre (KMTC) on the outskirts of Kabul. (SHAH MARAI/AFP via Getty Images)

5. Biden claims the timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan was firm, but he changed it multiple times.

From the transcript:

BIDEN: I got into office, George. Less than two months after I elected to office, I was sworn in, all of a sudden, I have a May 1 deadline. I have a May 1 deadline. I got one of two choices. Do I say we’re staying? And do you think we would not have to put a hell of a lot more troops? B — you know, we had hundreds — we had tens of thousands of troops there before. Tens of thousands.

In April, Biden broke Trump’s deal with the Taliban announcing that he would withdraw troops on September 11 before changing his mind in July and moving up the withdrawal date to August 31. After breaking the May 1 deadline, Biden kept withdrawing troops. He could have left more troops in Afghanistan until his new August 31 deadline

6. Joe Biden claims his military advisors did not warn against his withdrawal timeline. 

From the transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But your top military advisors warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops.

BIDEN: No, they didn’t. It was split. Tha — that wasn’t true. That wasn’t true.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn’t tell you that they wanted troops to stay?

BIDEN: No. Not at — not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a timeframe all troops. They didn’t argue against that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no one told — your military advisors did not tell you, “No, we should just keep 2,500 troops. It’s been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that?”

BIDEN: No. No one said that to me that I can recall.

Biden’s generals did argue for keeping troops in the region. The Wall Street Journal reported that his top general urged him to keep the force of 2,500 troops in Afghanistan to help maintain stability.

When Stephanopoulos pressed Biden on his assertion that the military did not advise him to keep troops in the country while Americans were evacuated, the president admits his memory could be faulty.

7. Biden claims he took “precautions” to the chaos in Afghanistan by sending in 6,000 troops in Afghanistan. 

From the transcript:

BIDEN: Secondly, we’re in a position where what we did was took precautions. That’s why I authorized that there be 6,000 American troops to flown in to accommodate this exit, number one.

Joe Biden authorized 6,000 troops to fly into Afghanistan, but only after it was clear that the government would fall. He began with the deployment of 3,000 troops but escalated the numbers three times as the crisis worsened. His orders were not precautionary measures, they were reactionary measures.

8. Biden claimed no one was getting killed around the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, despite reports of 12 deaths in the area.

From the transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Still a lotta’ pandemonium outside the airport.

BIDEN: Oh, there is. But, look, b– but no one’s being killed right now, God forgive me if I’m wrong about that, but no one’s being killed right now. People are – we got 1,000-somewhat, 1,200 out, yesterday, a couple thousand today. And it’s increasing. We’re gonna get those people out.

On Thursday, NATO officials said that 12 people have been killed in and around the airport in Kabul since Sunday, prompting the Taliban to urge people to leave the airport.

9. Biden mistakenly claims the incident of the people falling off of a C-17 was already four or five days ago.

From the transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But we’ve all seen the pictures. We’ve seen those hundreds of people packed into a C-17. You’ve seen Afghans falling–

BIDEN: That was four days ago, five days ago.

The incident occurred late Sunday night. Three days before Biden did the interview.

10. Biden stumbles over basic details of his son’s deployment and the branch in which he served.

From the transcript:

BIDEN: Look, that’s like askin’ my deceased son Beau, who spent six months in Kosovo and a year in Iraq as a Navy captain and then major– I mean, as an Army major. And, you know, I’m sure h– he had regrets comin’ out of Afganista– I mean, out of Iraq.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, centre right, talks with his son, U.S. Army Capt. Beau Biden, centre left, at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, July 4, 2009. Biden celebrated the Fourth of July with his son and other American troops in Iraq on Saturday, a day after warning Iraqi leaders that U.S. assistance will be jeopardized if the country reverts to ethnic and sectarian violence. Biden began Independence Day by greeting more than 200 U.S. soldiers who were becoming American citizens at a naturalization ceremony in a marble domed hall at one of Saddam Hussein's palaces at Camp Victory, the U.S. military headquarters on the outskirts of Baghdad. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed, Pool)

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, centre right, talks with his son, U.S. Army Capt. Beau Biden, centre left, at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, July 4, 2009. Biden celebrated the Fourth of July with his son and other American troops in Iraq on Saturday, a day after warning Iraqi leaders that U.S. assistance will be jeopardized if the country reverts to ethnic and sectarian violence. Biden began Independence Day by greeting more than 200 U.S. soldiers who were becoming American citizens at a naturalization ceremony in a marble domed hall at one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces at Camp Victory, the U.S. military headquarters on the outskirts of Baghdad. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed, Pool)

11. Biden laughs off a serious question about American credibility in Asia and around the world

STEPHANOPOULOS: You talked about our adversaries, China and Russia. You already see China telling Taiwan, “See? You can’t count on the Americans.”

(LAUGH)

BIDEN: Sh– why wouldn’t China say that? Look, George, the idea that w– there’s a fundamental difference between– between Taiwan, South Korea, NATO. We are in a situation where they are in– entities we’ve made agreements with based on not a civil war they’re having on that island or in South Korea, but on an agreement where they have a unity government that, in fact, is trying to keep bad guys from doin’ bad things to them.

12. Biden claims the Taliban was taking territory “all throughout the country” before Trump’s May 1st deadline

BIDEN: I have a May 1 deadline. I got one of two choices. Do I say we’re staying? And do you think we would not have to put a hell of a lot more troops? B– you know, we had hundreds– we had tens of thousands of troops there before. Tens of thousands.Do you think we woulda — that we would’ve just said, “No problem. Don’t worry about it, we’re not gonna attack anybody. We’re okay”? In the meantime, the Taliban was takin’ territory all throughout the country in the north and down in the south, in the Pasthtun area.

This is misleading. While the Taliban was active prior to Biden’s decision to break the peace deal, the now-former Afghan government reported a significant surge in Taliban attacks following Biden’s announcement he would stay in the country, documenting 22,000 attacks between April, when Biden broke the deal, and July.

13. Biden claims he could not have handled the exit from Afghanistan better. ‘No’ mistakes.  

From the transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don’t think this could’ve been handled, this exit could’ve been handled better in any way? No mistakes?

BIDEN: No. I– I don’t think it could’ve been handled in a way that there — we — we’re gonna go back in hindsight and look, but the idea that somehow there’s a way to have gotten out without chaos ensuing, I don’t know how that happens. I don’t know how that happened.

In Biden’s remarks on Monday, he acknowledged that he and his team had misjudged the timeline of Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban.

“The truth is: This did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated,” he said. It appears that Biden does not regret his team’s failure.

14. Biden indicates he’s grateful to the Taliban and trusts them, despite repeatedly saying he does not trust them. 

From the transcript:

BIDEN: What are they doing now? They’re cooperating, letting American citizens get out, American personnel get out, embassies get out, et cetera.

In this picture taken on August 13, 2021, Taliban fighters are pictured in a vehicle along the roadside in Herat, Afghanistan's third biggest city, after government forces pulled out the day before following weeks of being under siege. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

In this picture taken on August 13, 2021, Taliban fighters are pictured in a vehicle along the roadside in Herat, Afghanistan’s third biggest city, after government forces pulled out the day before following weeks of being under siege. (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

15. Biden claims the Taliban is providing “safe passage” for Americans.

From the transcript:

BIDEN: I’m not sure I would’ve predicted, George, nor would you or anyone else, that when we decided to leave, that they’d provide safe passage for Americans to get out.

While some Americans are making their way to the airport, there is very little evidence that the Taliban is actually providing safe passage for American citizens.

16. Biden sends a message to all Afghan women and girls that if they get to the airport in Kabul they will be evacuated. 

From the transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Beyond Americans, what do we owe the Afghans who are left behind, particularly Afghan women who are facing the prospect of subjugation again?

BIDEN: As many as we can get out, we should. For example, I had a meeting today for a couple hours in the Situation Room just below here. There are Afghan women outside the gate. I told ’em, “Get ’em on the planes. Get them out. Get them out. Get their families out if you can.”

Biden is unable to evacuate all Afghan women and girls from Afghanistan and to suggest that it is possible is likely to escalate chaos in and around the Kabul airport.

17. Biden struggles with the idea of American troops remaining in Kabul after the August 31 deadline — but ultimately commits to breaking the deadline.

From the transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: All troops are supposed to be out by August 31st. Even if Americans and our Afghan allies are still trying to get out, they’re gonna leave?

BIDEN: We’re gonna do everything in our power to get all Americans out and our allies out.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that mean troops will stay beyond August 31st if necessary?

BIDEN: It depends on where we are and whether we can get– ramp these numbers up to 5,000 to 7,000 a day coming out. If that’s the case, we’ll be — they’ll all be out.

STEPHANOPOULOS: ‘Cause we’ve got, like, 10,000 to 15,000 Americans in the country right now, right? And are you committed to making sure that the troops stay until every American who wants to be out–

BIDEN: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: — is out?

BIDEN: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So Americans should understand that troops might have to be there beyond August 31st?

BIDEN: No. Americans should understand that we’re gonna try to get it done before August 31st.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if we don’t, the troops will stay–

BIDEN: If — if we don’t, we’ll determine at the time who’s left.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And?

BIDEN: And if you’re American force — if there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out.

It is still unclear when American troops will leave Afghanistan.

18. Biden claims America does not have military troops in Syria. 

From the transcript:

BIDEN: It could be. But George, look, here’s the deal. Al Qaeda, ISIS, they metastasize. There’s a significantly greater threat to the United States from Syria. There’s a significantly greater threat from East Africa. There’s significant greater threat to other places in the world than it is from the mountains of Afghanistan. And we have maintained the ability to have an over-the-horizon capability to take them out. We’re– we don’t have military in Syria to make sure that we’re gonna be protected–

America does still have military troops in Syria. Roughly 900.

A convoy of US forces armoured vehicles drives near the village of Yalanli, on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, on March 5, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / DELIL SOULEIMAN (Photo credit should read DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

A convoy of US forces armoured vehicles drives near the village of Yalanli, on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Manbij, on March 5, 2017. (DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

19. Joe Biden claims the Taliban will not be the same as they were in 2001

From the transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question on this. You know, in a couple weeks, we’re all gonna commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11. The Taliban are gonna be ruling Afghanistan, just like they were when our country was attacked. How do you explain that to the American people?

BIDEN: Not true. It’s not true. They’re not gonna look just like they were when we were attacked.

Biden is right but not for the reason he is thinking. The Taliban is now more powerful than it ever was in 2001, controlling more territory and more American equipment and weapons than ever.

20. Biden claims the mission in Afghanistan was accomplished and that nation-building “never made any sense to me.” 

From the transcript:

We went there for two reasons, George. Two reasons. One, to get Bin Laden, and two, to wipe out as best we could, and we did, the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did it. Then what happened? Began to morph into the notion that, instead of having a counterterrorism capability to have small forces there in– or in the region to be able to take on Al Qaeda if it tried to reconstitute, we decided to engage in nation building. In nation building. That never made any sense to me.

We went there for two reasons, George. Two reasons. One, to get Bin Laden, and two, to wipe out as best we could, and we did, the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did it.

Biden is wrong. As a senator, Biden did fully endorse nation-building in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003. After the Taliban took control, al Qaeda operatives are now going free in Afghanistan.

Thousands of prisoners were released after the Taliban captured the Bagram Air Base, including senior al Qaeda operatives.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.