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Biden administration defends Afghanistan withdrawal prior to release of 'Strategic Failure' report

Photo by KARIM SAHIB/AFP via Getty Images

The White House has circulated a draft of a new memo defending President Biden’s decisions last August, in advance of the release of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s report entitled “'A Strategic Failure’: Assessing the Administration’s Afghanistan Withdrawal.”

The memo, written by Biden’s National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson, suggested that the House Republican interim report "is riddled with inaccurate characterizations, cherry-picked information, and false claims." It alleged further that the criticism of Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal constitutes advocacy for "endless war and sending even more American troops to Afghanistan."

Watson claimed that Biden was confronted with a binary choice when he took office in 2021: "ramp up the war and put even more Americans at risk, or finally end the United States' longest war."

The memo's reassertion of the claim that Biden faced a binary choice with regards to possible withdrawal from Afghanistan contends with one of the two central arguments reportedly made in "Strategic Failure": that the Taliban's "failure to adhere to the agreement nullified the U.S. requirement to withdraw."

Concerning the suggestion that Biden had only two choices, former Vice Chief of the United States Army General Jack Keane told Fox News that Biden "presented a false narrative to the American people, which I find very disturbing."

Although Watson posited that Biden ended the war and saved American lives, she also assigned blame to former President Donald Trump for "committ[ing] to withdrawing our troops ... with no clear plan for what should come next."

In the memo, Watson also included a "Fact Check" section, where she attempted to refute arguments that may appear in the House Republican interim report.

She indicated that the claim that "we could have kept 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and that would have been sufficient" was false; that, according to Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and others, the U.S. would have had to send additional troops for reinforcement.

Similarly, Watson refuted the claim that "we are less safe today because of the withdrawal because Al Qaeda has reconstituted in Afghanistan and Afghanistan has become a terrorist haven." Citing an assessment by the "Intelligence Community," Watson suggested that "Al-Qa'ida does not have a capability to launch attacks against the U.S. or its interests abroad" and that its numbers are dwindling.

It is not yet clear whether Watson's memo relies upon information gathered by the State Department or the Pentagon in their separate reviews of the withdrawal. Neither review has yet been publicly released, with the State Department citing concerns about politics and optics.

Axios reported that this document is evidence of the Democrats' eagerness to "portray the withdrawal as a necessary move" in light of Republican intentions to "make Afghanistan a key focus of investigations if they reclaim power in Congress next year."

If the Republicans take more seats in the House, they may follow through with past calls to impeach Biden. In September 2021, several members of the U.S. House of Representatives – led by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) – filed articles of impeachment against Biden in response to how he handled America's withdrawal from Afghanistan as well as to his management of the crisis at the southern border.

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