President Joe Biden lashed out at a reporter who tried to ask him about security at Kabul airport on Sunday after spending much of the day paying tribute to the 13 military personnel who died in Afghanistan.
He is under intense pressure to defend his management of the rapid withdrawal of American forces after 20 years of conflict.
And it turned out later in the day after returning to Washington, DC, where he gave a pep talk to Federal Emergency Management Agency staff as Hurricane Ida descended on the Louisiana.
“I’m not supposed to answer questions, but go ahead,” he said, turning to the traveling press pool.
“On Afghanistan …” said a journalist before cutting him off.
He shouted, “I’m not going to respond to Afghanistan now. “
The president turned away from the press pool to speak to FEMA staff as the reporter continued to ask him if he still believed “there was extreme risk at the airport.”
After a moving day meeting relatives of 13 soldiers killed by ISIS-K suicide bomber in Kabul, President Biden returned to Washington to visit FEMA headquarters
It was a revealing moment towards the end of a long day.
Previously, he had landed under a slate sky in Delaware on the air base that hosts what the military calls “dignified transfers.”
It was the kind of heartbreaking day he wanted to make history by ending the US war in Afghanistan.
But instead, he and the first lady spent the first part of the morning meeting privately with the families of the victims.
The dead were between 20 and 31 years old and ranged from east to west, from Massachusetts to California. Five were 20 years old, babies when Al Qaeda launched its attacks.
Several families criticized Biden, questioning his decision to send them to Kabul when such a chaotic departure was underway.
Their grief was hidden at Dover Air Base – they were out of sight – but audible. High-pitched screams of pain could be heard as the second body, in a flag-draped “transfer box”, was transported by a Navy guard from a C-17 aircraft to a transfer vehicle.
Biden stood solemnly, hand over heart, as body after body was carried before him.
President Joe Biden witnessed the dignified transfer of remains of military personnel killed in Kabul airport attack on Sunday
The remains were transported and unloaded from a C-17 Globemaster aircraft
Her eyes were fixed on each transfer case as she moved from the plane to the van, First Lady Jill Biden by her side. Every now and then he would bow his head as if in silent prayer.
The only other noises were the silent orders of the honor guards in riot gear and white gloves carrying the suitcases, and the hum of the C-17 plane.
“The 13 servicemen we lost were heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of our highest American ideals and while saving the lives of others,” he said in a statement the day before.
“Their bravery and selflessness have brought more than 117,000 people at risk to safety so far. “
Their deaths, killed by an ISIS-K suicide bomber on Thursday while protecting an airlift of vulnerable Americans and Afghans, highlighted the risks of ending the US war in Afghanistan and the cost. potential policy for Biden.
The withdrawal of American forces allowed the Taliban to regain power, after a war of nearly 20 years and the cost of 2,400 American soldiers.
International allies have openly accused the president of catching them off guard with his rush to get out by August 31.
And his handling of the crisis – accusing Afghan troops of failing to fight the Taliban and his predecessor’s peace deal with the enemy – sparked harsh criticism from all quarters at home.
Parts of a destroyed vehicle are seen inside a house after a US drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday August 29, 2021. A US drone strike destroyed a vehicle carrying “several suicide bombers” on Sunday. Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan before they could attack the ongoing military evacuation at Kabul International Airport, US officials said
But there was nothing worse than the verdict of a grieving mother.
‘[He was] is preparing to come home after freaking out Jordan to be with his wife to attend the birth of his son, ”Kathy McCollum said Friday in a radio interview with her late 20-year-old son Rylee. ‘
“And this bagless shit with dementia just sent my son to his death.” “
Risks remain. A US drone strike on Sunday detonated a vehicle carrying “several suicide bombers” in Kabul, according to US officials, before they could launch another attack on the airport.
It was the second strike since the airport bombing, following an attack that the Pentagon said killed an ISIS-K facilitator and a planner.
Biden returned to Washington DC on Sunday afternoon for a FEMA briefing on Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in Louisiana.
He began his remarks by saying that he had just come from Dover.
“We met the families of 13 fallen heroes in Afghanistan who lost their lives in the service of our country and as we pray for the best in Louisiana let us also keep them in our prayers,” he said. .
And he urged the people on the path of the storm to seek safety.
“It will be a devastating and devastating hurricane, a life threatening storm,” he said.
“So please, all of you, and in Mississippi and Louisiana, Mississippi and God knows, maybe even further east, take precautions. “