Blindfolded, voices explode, Joe Biden’s death of 13 US service members during his withdrawal from Kabul dealt a terrible blow to his presidency.
Addressing the nation from the White House, Biden bowed for a moment before raising questions from journalists who pressed for a bloody turn in the already tragic operation to end the 20-year war in Afghanistan.
He sometimes appeared close to tears when he spoke of dead “heroes”. And when he promised the attackers, “We will hunt you down,” there was steel in his voice.
There is no doubt that a bomb blast at Kabul airport has shaken Biden’s presidency.
In January, he promised calm at home and respect for the United States after Donald Trump’s tumultuous years.
Biden is now left to climb a mountain if he can convince the nation and US partners that either goal is achievable.
The 78-year-old Democrat was already worried about the US-backed government and US-created military collapse almost overnight, leaving a handful of US troops and thousands of US citizens and allies at the mercy of the Taliban.
Working 24 hours a day for 10 days, his management thought it might still succeed in disaster.
The airlift was going much better than expected, the US military was performing flawlessly, and the Taliban were more or less concluding deals to secure Kabul.
In Washington on Thursday morning, the White House proudly presented the latest notable figures: More than 95,000 people have been evacuated since the fall of the Taliban in Kabul.
Then the bombs exploded.
Locking himself in a situation room with his colleagues, Biden canceled a meeting of state governors and told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that his planned meeting at the Oval Office would have to wait until Friday.
During one-day meetings with national security personnel, Biden was “serious” and “outraged,” said Press Secretary Jane Sackie.
“Any day where you lose members of the service is probably the worst day of your presidency.”
Biden did not start the Afghan war. He was a Republican, George W. Bush.
And Biden was the first of four presidents to keep his promise to end the catastrophe.
But as Biden himself put it, “the deer stops.”
This means that he will not be able to escape the wrath and fear at home because of the deaths of soldiers – or the political consequences.
“That’s blood on Biden’s hands,” said Republican Congresswoman Alice Stephens. “This horrific national security and humanitarian catastrophe is only the result of Biden’s weak and incompetent leadership. He is ineligible to be Commander-in-Chief.”
Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn tweeted that Biden and all his national security personnel “should resign or face impeachment and be removed from office.”
The Republican was noisy. But the wide-ranging loss in the referendum will be even more troubling for Biden.
Although a poll by USA Today / Suffolk University this week found that Americans believe the Afghans are incapable of fighting the war, Biden is not being thanked. In the survey, only 41% of them approved, 55% disapproved.
“I don’t know if Biden will be harmed permanently,” Mark Room, a government professor at Georgetown University, told AFP. “But Republicans will do everything in their power to see.”
Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Pool, said Biden could still recover from the devastation given the unpopularity of the Afghan war.
“Once we are completely backed down, the political question is whether the majority will be happy that we are no longer there,” he said.
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