Secretary of State Antony Blinken directly contradicted statements made by President Joe Biden just two days earlier in a “Fox News Sunday” interview with Chris Wallace.
Wallace pressed Blinken on false statements made by Biden regarding the ongoing operation to evacuate Americans from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of the country. Blinken said that there is an al-Qaida presence remaining in the country, contrary to what Biden said Friday.
“The President on Friday said a few other things that were flat wrong,” Wallace began, before playing a clip in which Biden said Friday al-Qaida is “gone” from Afghanistan. “A UN report this summer says that al-Qaida is present in fifteen of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, and General Milley said this summer that if the Taliban took over Kabul, that he was going to have to upgrade the terror threat from al-Qaida. What the president said just wasn’t true.”
“Chris, step back for one second. First, as we all know, we went to Afghanistan 20 years ago with one mission and one purpose in mind, and that was to deal with the folks who attacked us on 9/11, to bring bin Laden to justice which we did a decade ago, and to diminish the capacity of al-Qaida to do the same thing again: to attack us from Afghanistan,” Blinken began. “And that, to the president’s point has been successful. We got bin Laden a decade ago—”
“But Mr. Secretary, sir, the president said al-Qaida is gone,” Wallace interrupted. “Simple question: is al-Qaida gone from Afghanistan?”
“Al-Qaida’s capacity to do what it did on 9/11, to attack us, to attack our partners or allies from Afghanistan, is vastly, vastly diminished,” Blinken answered.
“Is it gone?”
“Are there al-Qaida members and remnants in Afghanistan? Yes,” Blinken said. “But what the president was referring to was its capacity to do what it did on 9/11, and that capacity has been very successfully diminished.”
Other experts and military leaders have agreed with Milley’s assessment that the terror threat from al-Qaida and other Islamic militant groups will rise under Taliban control of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida was able to plan and execute the 9/11 attacks from a base of operations in Afghanistan during the previous period of Taliban control in the country.
Wallace went on to further press Blinken on the question of U.S. allies criticizing the Biden administration’s handling of Afghanistan. Biden said last week he had seen no cases of American allies criticizing the U.S. Wallace highlighted multiple examples proving that’s not the case.
“Does the president not know what’s going on?” Wallace asked.