President Biden’s administration doesn’t deserve any blame for the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., said.
Lee made the statement during a Sunday appearance on CNN, telling host Jake Tapper that the blame largely rests with former President Donald Trump.
“I know you supported the goal of leaving Afghanistan, but do you believe President Biden deserves some blame for the way that that withdrawal spiraled out of control?” Tapper asked.
“I don’t believe the administration deserves any blame for this,” Lee responded. “We have to remember that Donald Trump made this agreement with the Taliban.”
“Secondly, the Trump administration literally gutted our State Department and our diplomatic corps,” Lee continued. “I believe that the State Department and those that were involved in this, you know, end of the Afghanistan war – which should have happened before then, I believe – did the best they could. Having said that, it wasn’t as smooth as we would have liked to have seen it.”
Lee’s comments come more than a week after the State Department published a formal evaluation of the Afghanistan withdrawal.
The report found that both Trump and Biden had “insufficient senior-level consideration” of what could go wrong during a withdrawal. The State Department conducted more than 150 interviews over a 90-day period to compile the report, which it released to the public June 30.
“The decisions of both President Trump and President Biden to end the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan had serious consequences for the viability of the Afghan government and its security,” the report stated. “Those decisions are beyond the scope of this review, but the AAR team found that during both administrations there was insufficient senior-level consideration of worst-case scenarios and how quickly those might follow.”
The U.S. withdrawal saw Afghan government forces collapse almost immediately against the Taliban, and 13 U.S. service members were killed in a suicide bombing while defending the evacuation at the Kabul airport.