House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said Friday that President Joe Biden’s statement about inevitable Afghanistan withdrawal chaos ''doesn’t really add up'' with his earlier comments that there would not be chaos during the drawdown.
''I mean, you can play the tape. It’s not hard. I mean, the president said, as this was going on, that — he said quite clearly, it would not be chaotic,'' Smith said during an interview on CNN Friday. ''And now he is saying it was inevitable that it was going to be chaotic. Okay, well, that doesn’t really add up. One of those two things is not true, and I think that’s unfortunate.''
Smith called the current situation on the ground, especially in the capital city of Kabul, ''a great tragedy,'' and said it was a failure not to give the Afghans an ''alternative'' government to the Taliban, who have taken the power — and the country — back in just days of the American pullout.
''Now the Taliban is back in power, and the chaos we knew would come if they were, is coming,'' he said. ''It is a great tragedy.''
Taliban forces overtook Kabul last Sunday, capping a 10-day campaign to reclaim power in Afghanistan as the remaining 2,500 U.S. forces and thousands of refugees flooded the city’s international airport to get out of the country.
President Biden addressed the nation for the third time in a week Friday, saying that evacuation efforts were continuing, and that the additional 6,000 troops ordered to Afghanistan had arrived and secured the airport to accommodate the exodus.
''We have made significant progress,'' Biden said. ''We have secured the airport, allowing (evacuation) flights to resume.''
Calling it one of the ''most difficult airlifts in history,'' Biden said the United States is the only country in the world capable of ''projecting that much power'' and ''precision'' for such an effort ''half-way around the world.''
He said 18,000 people have been evacuated since July, with 13,000 since the airlift began Aug. 14, and thousands more on private charter flights.
Smith said the U.S. should have been ''more clear-eyed'' on the Taliban’s ability to rapidly move on the nation and reclaim power.
He said his committee asked the Pentagon in February what plans it had in place for the scheduled pullout of the remaining 2,500 troops and others, but were not given any firm answers.
''They did not focus as much on it as they should have,'' Smith said. ''We pressed them, (but) the Biden administration did not adequately plan for this; they were kind of kidding themselves about the ability of the Afghan government to stand after we left. The intel made it pretty clear that it was not going to happen, and we should have planned for that.''
While critical of the pullout’s execution by the Biden administration, Smith said he agreed with its assessment to leave the country after 20 years.
He also said the previous administration of President Donald Trump put the U.S. ''in a bad position'' by negotiating directly with the Taliban about the terms of the withdrawal, cutting the Afghan government out of the conversation.
''There was no way of doing this without some amount of chaos,'' he said.
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