White House press secretary Jen Psaki had a controversial exchange with New York Times correspondent Michael Shear about the Biden administration’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
At Friday’s press conference, Psaki was asked about criticism the administration received from Democratic lawmakers who said the military withdrawal from Afghanistan had been “gravely mismanaged”.
“It’s easy to throw stones or be an outside critic. It’s harder to be in the arena and make tough decisions, ”Psaki told a reporter.
Psaki then argued that the two “options” President Biden had before him were either to send “tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan to potentially lose their lives” or “you step back and you don’t put anyone in. danger “.
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“The option he has chosen, in coordination and on the basis of recommendations with his commanders and military advisers on the ground, is to carry out an evacuation that has potentially saved the lives of more than 105,000 people, certainly in the risk of men and women. who serve in the military as we saw the events of yesterday. That’s the choice he made, ”Psaki said.
This triggered an interjection from Shear.
“But Jen, apologies to my colleagues, but, like, you repeated this idea over and over that there were only two choices. What proof do you have that there were no other choices that could have been made? Shear asked.
“What is the other choice that someone offers?” Psaki retorted.
Shear offered a hypothetical “example” in which Biden could have informed the Afghan government in May of the massive evacuation of the United States to allow Afghan personnel and allies to begin evacuating.
“I’m not saying this is the right way to go, I don’t know, but it’s another option and I’m sure there are ten other options I haven’t thought of – so why the introduce yourself like these are the only two options? Shear pressed Psaki.
“There are of course other options, but there are consequences to each option. That’s my point of view, ”Psaki replied.
Psaki then suggested that under the plan proposed by Shear, a “threat to US forces would have increased by that time.”
“But you would have operated in a capital that was not invaded by the Taliban,” replied the Times reporter.
“How do you know that? Psaki replied.
“Well, the Taliban weren’t near Kabul at the time,” Shear replied.
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“Look Mike, I think it’s easy to play in the back, let’s look at what could have happened, three months, four months ago. I think we’ve been clear on a few points, I’ll just say, ”Psaki told Shear. . “No one expected, I think including outside, that the Afghan government would have fallen at the rate it has fallen and the president and members of our national security team have spoken about it as well. We did not anticipate Afghan national security forces would have retreated as they did. We did not anticipate this. And as a result of all of that, we saw a chaotic situation just two weeks ago. “
“My point in response to the question is that there are consequences to any of these tough choices and decisions. This is what you are faced with as Commander-in-Chief and that was the most important point I was trying to make, ”Psaki added.