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President Biden Defends U.S. Withdrawal From Afghanistan


Let's turn now to NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, what do you make of what we just heard from Congressman Meeks?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Well, I think that he was expressing the views of probably a lot of American voters, which is, not our problem. You know, the Afghans wouldn't fight. And it wasn't worth it. I think he didn't answer a lot of the questions that people are going to want to know in Washington, which is, why wasn't this withdrawal planned for in a more orderly fashion? Why did the administration seem to be caught so flat footed?

But I do think that he - that what you heard from Congressman Meeks is this disconnect between elite opinion, which is very devastating. I mean, that the Biden administration - you might agree with his decision, and most Americans do, to withdraw. But the execution of the policy was on him. So the elites have been very, very critical. The American public will see over time if they care about Afghanistan.

GONYEA: President Biden put out a lengthy statement yesterday defending this decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. Have we heard any more from the president today?

LIASSON: No, we haven't. And he did meet by video conference with his national security team, with his military and diplomatic advisers. And they discussed, and, obviously, Meeks was on that teleconference - talked about evacuating Afghan personnel. But other than the statement that the White House issued yesterday, we haven't heard from him. I wouldn't be surprised if we hear from him in the next couple of days.

But basically, the White House is laying out this argument that there were only two choices, that because President Trump had negotiated this deal with the Taliban with the May 1 deadline to withdraw, the only choices were to withdraw all the troops or go back to open combat because 2,500 troops on the ground were just not enough to withstand a Taliban offensive. Now, that is a point of argument. There are a lot of people who say that's just not true. But, you know, the president says, basically, he had a choice, ramp up our presence, something the American people don't want after 20 years, or get out. And it's the process of getting out, all the optics of getting out that is now causing him so much problems.

GONYEA: Republicans have slammed Biden over this. Let's listen to Representative Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Here's what he told NPR's Weekend Edition.

MICHAEL MCCAUL: The commander in chief, the president has every right to make his own decisions. The buck stops here is - and I - Harry Truman said. And this - I think President Biden owns this.

GONYEA: Does Biden on this, Mara? And just...

LIASSON: Well, I think he owns...

GONYEA: ...Quickly, what does it mean? Yeah.

LIASSON: I think he owns the execution of the withdrawal. But look how many presidents have created this. George W. Bush got us in. Donald Trump made this peace deal with the Taliban and now Biden presiding over this route of a withdrawal.

GONYEA: That was NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you.

LIASSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.