Nets SLAM Biden Speech Giving al-Qaeda ‘Propaganda Tool,’ ‘Miss[ed] the Moment’

August 16th, 2021 8:17 PM

The major broadcast networks continued their welcome stance on Monday afternoon of holding President Biden accountable for the embarrassing collapse of Afghanistan and the peril Americans and Afghans have found themselves in. After Biden’s speech, ABC, CBS, and NBC lambasted it for having “missed the moment” in failing to “accept responsibility” for this “catastrophe” he’s caused and explain how the U.S. and Afghan allies move forward.

ABC was by far the harshest, wasting no time to take Biden to task with senior foreign correspondent Ian Pannell in Kabul saying that while Biden leveled a “pretty harsh assessment” blaming the country’s collapse on the Afghan government and military, “a lot of the criticisms were unfair.”



Pannell also took aim at Biden’s claim that the terror threat has expanded beyond Afghanistan, noting that “[t]here are people who disagree about the threat on the ground” as terrorist groups will now have “vast, ungoverned spaces allowing extremism and terrorism to flourish again.”

All in all, Pannell said Biden’s remarks “will leave a lot of people dumbfounded.”

Chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz concurred that, contrary to Biden’s framing, the debate wasn’t about whether withdrawing from Afghanistan was the right decision, but it’s instead how it took place (click ‘expand”):

But just going forward with Ian's point, this really isn't about withdrawing from Afghanistan. That is a debatable point. There are many people who think that is a good idea. What they want to talk about is how this was done. Just look at those pictures. There was not a plan in place on how to deal with that. The President also said we didn't get them out earlier because many didn't want to go. Well, many didn't want to go because people like President Biden were saying it was highly unlikely that the Taliban would overtake that country, so there are failures on so many levels here, David. Failure of diplomacy, failure of that military training. The President talked about how we had trained those Afghan troops for 20 years and this happened. What did we do wrong? And a failure of intelligence, David. Yes, people were predicting that possibly, at some point, the Taliban may take over, but they were not predicting that it could be so fast and we have been dealing with the Taliban now for 20 years. 


I've talked to so many veterans and Gold Star families are shattered watching these scenes and asking themselves, “what was this for?” Because many just feel like we've gone backwards 20 years. The Taliban has taken over this country. You know, President Biden talks about human rights. How are they going to do that? How are they going to help those women in educating people and human rights with the Taliban in charge? And the veterans? They are asking themselves the same question, what was this for? They fought honorably, they fought for the men and women next to them, but they look at these scenes in horror, David. 

Chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl slammed Biden for possessing a falsehood that “the options here” were “a simple choice between withdrawing all American forces or having a war that never ends,” which drew an assist from chief national correspondent Terry Moran.

Moran was scathing, saying Biden “seem[ed] to miss the moment” with a misplaced speech that “didn't answer the question as to how his administration bungled this” and instead “shifted the blame” to everyone from Afghans to Donald Trump.

“He did not, in any way, accept responsibility for the catastrophe that's unfolded in Kabul and I think missed a moment to demonstrate the kind of leadership to live up to that saying the buck stops here,” Moran added.

CBS wasn’t any less charitable. After correspondent Roxanna Sabieri gave a description of the hellscape (from an undisclosed location to protect her safety), longtime Pentagon correspondent David Martin brutally and methodically tore into Biden’s speech and said “the honor of the United States depends on getting” Afghan allies out (click “expand,” emphasis mine): 

NORAH O’DONNELL: But what’s the thinking with inside the Pentagon about what a mess this is? 

MARTIN: Well, everybody was surprised including the Taliban at the – the speed of this collapse. But, you know, there is humiliation of the moment but the real problem is getting that airport working and getting people out because you're talking about first, the Americans. He said thousands of Americans. That's not counting the embassy diplomats, so there's thousands of Americans out there in – in Afghanistan, and then there are tens of thousands of Afghans who work for the U.S., the State Department, the CIA, the military during the war who now have good reason to fear for their lives. Are we going to be able to get them out? There is no provision that I know of for getting them to the airport. They have to get to the airport on their own and of course we know that getting to the airport is not necessarily the answer to your problem because of the chaos that reigns there. So, when Roxanna said she heard planes landing during that speech, that's good news cause that means that’s more troops coming, more troops to establish order at that airfield and then with every plane that goes in, that's one more plane to fill up with about 250 passengers to take out. But we still don't understand what's going to happen to all those Afghans who have to make it to the airport on their own and frankly, I think the honor of the United States depends on getting those Afghans out. 

O’DONNELL: And David, answer that question. Because while people may agree with President Biden that it's time to end the war in Afghanistan, the way it ended and the way that the Taliban was able to so swiftly take control and the way that we have thousands of not only U.S. citizens there but also those who have helped our forces on the ground as you mention, that they'd they are left in harm's way, that that aftermath was handled poorly. Is that where some of the blame will be placed within the Biden administration for failing to anticipate that? 

MARTIN: I think everybody recognizes that we pumped way too much money into Afghanistan, to the point where it fueled corruption so that corruption became as big an enemy as the Taliban. And then when the U.S. started to withdraw, all the things that the U.S. military is good at, air strikes, medivac, resupply of food and ammunition went away and those Afghan soldiers were left out there in the provinces knowing no one was going to come to rescue them. They'd be lucky if they got fed. And so, this military that we had tried to inculcate with the motto of no man left behind, suddenly turned into a military of every man for himself.

O’DONNELL: Well put, David Martin.

Chief foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata agreed, saying Martin’s points were “extremely crucial” as the sudden withdrawal caused Afghans to “lose confidence” and “morale.”

Over on NBC, White House correspondent Kelly O’Donnell took note of what Biden didn’t explain in “why this has been such a devastating unfolding at the airport and what he will do right now.”

O’Donnell acknowledged there’s “symmetry” and “symbolism of exiting Afghanistan by the anniversary of 9/11,” but Biden’s actions “will certainly be on his watch and something he will have to take credit for and take all of the slings and arrows that come with it.”

For once, Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd made himself useful as even he realized there “was the big gap in his remarks was not explaining why this is happening, why this is so chaotic” and cited Biden’s attempt to blame Trump for the chaos.

Todd conceded that “the next to be horrendous for him, public relations-wise” because al-Qaeda has been handed “a propaganda tool on the 20th anniversary of 9/11” and only time will tell if Biden made the right decision.

To further embarrassment, longtime NBCer Andrea Mitchell had nothing to offer as a defense (click “expand”):

Well, the State Department has been very defensive about why they were so slow to get those special visas for Afghan translators and others who had worked for the U.S. military and that is a criticism that he has not really addressed. Bipartisan criticism, I should add from Democratic members of Congress. who has said that they passed legislation in July specifically to speed this up and it's not just them. Of course it's the women, the girls who are left behind and don't even qualify for the special visa, so he hasn't really addressed the Afghan people while criticizing understandably the political leadership in Afghanistan and the Afghan military. 

Also, he said that the original mission to make sure that they could never be another 9/11 attack on the homeland from this country as his base for terror and that was accomplished 10 years ago with the killing of Osama bin laden and that that could still be accomplished from “over the horizon from outside the country.” That is not the case, though. According to former CIA director John Brennan, who was in a Democratic administration as well as working for Republicans and others who say you cannot accomplish from outside what you have lost by the withdrawal because once you close the Bagram Air Force Base, which you know so well. Lester, you lost the ground truth and that that is going to be far more difficult than that, under the Taliban, these terrorists could reform. 

And despite Biden’s attempts to say the U.S. would stand up for “human rights,” chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel said Afghans “believe that the U.S. has abandoned them, abandoned hope, abandoned women in this country and they will say how could it possibly be — faced with the — what we — the scenes we saw at this airport just a few hours ago that the President comes on national television and makes an address and says human rights are his — at the cornerstone of his policy.”

When even your friends have nothing but bad things to say (minus MSNBC), you know it’s a bad day at the White House.

To see the relevant network transcripts from August 16, click here.