President Joe Biden is facing intense criticism from media figures both on TV and online as Taliban forces begin their takeover of Kabul, Afghanistan, an outcome that the president said was “highly unlikely” just last month.
As American troops began emergency evacuations of the U.S. embassy in the Afghan capital, CNN’s Jake Tapper said the world was watching “a tragic foreign policy disaster unfold before our eyes.”
“That is, of course, a sharp turn-around from six weeks ago when President Biden called it highly unlikely that the Taliban would overrun the country, an assessment that even at the time struck many experts in Biden’s own administration as unrealistic,” Tapper continued. “And now, as American diplomats rush to shred embassy documents and escape, it seems shocking that President Biden could have been so wrong.”
It’s a rare instance where mainstream cable news has aligned with both fledgling far-right networks and Middle-Eastern activists in their criticism of the Biden Administration. On Twitter, Newsmax foreign correspondent Alex Salvi posted a clip of Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisting on July 7 that the embassy would not be in danger because of Biden’s decision to withdraw troops.
Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad also posted her own video of Biden’s promises about Afghanistan’s safety, accusing the president of “empowering the anti-women and anti-democratic regimes and terrorist organizations.”
“We are not withdrawing, we are staying, the embassy is staying, our programs are staying,” Blinken said. “If there is a significant deterioration in security … I don’t think it’s going to be something that happens from a Friday to a Monday.”
Now, journalists and columnists are directly comparing the hasty Kabul evacuations to those the U.S. implemented in Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, even comparing pictures of U.S. helicopters leaving the abandoned embassies more than four decades apart.
On “State of the Union” on Sunday, Tapper invoked Saigon during an interview with Blinken. ““President Biden is intent on avoiding a Saigon moment…But with this troop surge to airlift Americans out of Afghanistan aren’t we already in the midst of a Saigon moment?” he asked.
“No, we’re not. Remember, this is not Saigon,” Blinken responded. “We went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission. And that mission was to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11. We have succeeded in that mission.”
Tapper also grilled Blinken on the White House’s handling of the embassy evacuation by “taking out all the service members before those Americans and those Afghan translators could get out….Then you have to send people back in. That is the definition of ‘Oh, we shouldn’t have taken those troops out because now we have to send twice as many back in.’”
Blinken responded by insisting that “the president was prepared for every contingency,” and cited his decision to return thousands of troops to Kabul to oversee the evacuation as proof. He also said that the Taliban were warned that any attempts to attack the evacuation would be met with a “swift and decisive response.”
But American media outlets were also criticized for their coverage of the evacuation, particularly among opponents of the U.S.’ continued occupation of Afghanistan. Former FAIR Media columnist Adam Johnson pointed to a tweet from New York Times foreign correspondent Declan Walsh that read, “For those who lamented ‘forever wars’ — is the phrase anything more than a comforting cop-out for epic failures of policy and the imagination? — here’s what the end looks like.”
“NYT has clear social media policies against their reporters “promoting political views” — and indeed recently fired an editor for simply praising Biden,” Johnson said about Walsh’s tweet, referring to the dismissal of former editor Lauren Wolfe this past January. “This is the policy unless, of course, it’s explicit advocacy for continued war and occupation then it’s totally cool and normal.”