- Biden winced when he learned that an ISIS-K suicide bombing had killed US troops in Kabul in late August, per the NYT.
- “The worst that can happen has happened,” Biden said during a White House meeting, the Times reported.
- Days later, Biden would say that the Afghanistan withdrawal was an “extraordinary success.”
“The worst that can happen has happened.”
Those were President Joe Biden’s words during an August 26 meeting in the White House Situation Room after learning of a devastating ISIS-K suicide bombing near the airport in Kabul amid a chaotic evacuation process, the New York Times reported, citing participants in the meeting.
Biden winced at the news, the Times reported.
The ISIS-K attack killed 13 US service members and 170 Afghans. It was the deadliest day for the US military in a decade. ISIS-K is the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate.
The fatal incident exacerbated criticism of the Biden administration’s handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal, which would be completed on August 31. In the days that followed the attack, the administration would order retaliatory drone strikes — including one that mistakenly targeted an aid worker in Kabul, killing 10 civilians including seven children. The Biden administration was forced to acknowledge the error and publicly apologize — a rarity in the wake of such strikes, even when there’s civilian casualties.
Biden has faced bipartisan criticism over his approach to the Afghanistan pullout, which coincided with the Taliban regaining control of the country for the first time since 2001. Critics have often zeroed in on the ISIS-K attack, the botched drone strike, and the fact that Americans and Afghan allies were left behind. There have been efforts to continue the evacuations of Americans and Afghans since the last US troops left.
The president has defended the withdrawal by citing the fact the deal to pull US troops was orchestrated under the Trump administration, while emphasizing that it was long past time to end the war. America’s war in Afghanistan lasted 20 years, making it the longest conflict in US history.
Biden in an August 31 speech portrayed the withdrawal as an “extraordinary success,” while offering a full-throated defense of the pullout.
“My fellow Americans: The war in Afghanistan is now over. I’m the 4th president who has faced the issue of whether and when to end this war,” Biden said at the time. “I refused to send another generation of America’s sons and daughters to fight a war that should have ended long ago.”
“That was the choice, the real choice between leaving or escalating,” he said. “I was not going to extend this forever war.”