- Biden overruled calls from two Cabinet officials to extend the US troop presence in Afghanistan, according to a new book.
- The secretary of state and defense secretary thought prolonging the withdrawal could give the US leverage in negotiations.
- The Biden administration has faced bipartisan criticism over its handling of the withdrawal.
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President Joe Biden overruled calls from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to extend the US troop presence in Afghanistan, according to a new book obtained by CNN.
Austin believed that carrying out the withdrawal in three or four stages would help give the US an advantage in diplomatic negotiations, according to the book, “Peril,” by journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
Meanwhile, after meeting with NATO ministers in March, Blinken had a change of heart on withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan.
“Previously, [Blinken] had been foursquare with Biden for a full withdrawal,” Costa and Woodward wrote, per CNN. “His new recommendation was to extend the mission with US troops for a while to see if it could yield a political settlement. Buy time for negotiations.” Other NATO members supported this approach.
But Biden was adamant when it came to fully withdrawing.
“Our mission is to stop Afghanistan from being a base for attacking the homeland and US allies by al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, not to deliver a death blow to the Taliban,” Biden said during one of over two dozen National Security Council meetings on the matter, per the book.
The Pentagon, State Department, and White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Insider.
The US completed the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan at the end of August. The pullout coincided with the Taliban regaining control of the country, as well as a deadly ISIS-K attack outside of the Kabul airport that killed 13 US service members and 169 Afghans.
The Biden administration has fervently defended the withdraw in the face of bipartisan criticism.
Though the new book suggests Blinken was urged by other NATO members to prolong the US troop presence in Afghanistan, the top US diplomat this week told congressional lawmakers that NATO allies “immediately and unanimously embraced” Biden’s plan for the withdrawal when he announced it in April.
Fellow NATO members like the UK have been heavily critical of the withdrawal, despite Blinken’s assertions in testimony to Congress.