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U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan are nightmare scenario for Biden

WorldAug 26, 2021 06:52PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden gives a statement about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 24, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden, anxiously seeking to complete the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan, watched a nightmare scenario unfold on Thursday when suicide bomb explosions outside the Kabul airport killed at least 12 U.S. troops and wounded 15 others.

Biden had already gathered in the White House Situation Room with his top military and diplomatic advisers for a daily update on the chaotic evacuation effort early on Thursday when the blasts occurred outside the airport in the Afghan capital.

The team did not emerge from the Situation Room until more than two hours later, then Biden migrated to the Oval Office, as a steady stream of Pentagon personnel, some in uniform, filed in and out of the White House.

Some staff learned of the growing numbers of U.S. military dead from mounted television screens in the White House West Wing as the day progressed, and let out cries of despair as the numbers multiplied.

"We're outraged as well as heartbroken," Biden said of himself and his wife Jill in public remarks late on Thursday. The couple had "some sense what the families of these brave heroes are feeling today" after the death of his Army major son Beau from brain cancer, which Biden has previously linked to his son's military service.

He vowed to "hunt down" the attackers and called the dead troops "heroes."

"They were part of simply what I call the backbone of America, they are the spine of America. The best the country has to offer," Biden said.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack which also killed scores of civilians.

Biden, facing criticism over the U.S. evacuation after the rapid Taliban takeover of Afghanistan as American forces were pulling out after two decades, has sought to hammer home a message in days before the attacks that the United States was leaving Afghanistan in order to save the lives of U.S. troops.

The U.S. military death toll in the Afghan war since 2001 is roughly 2,500.

Remaining any longer, the Democratic president told reporters on Aug. 20, could mean he would need to "send your sons, your daughters - like my son was sent to Iraq - to maybe die. And for what? For what?"

Thursday's U.S. military casualties were the first in Afghanistan since February 2020 and represented the deadliest day for American troops there in a decade.

'THE NIGHTMARE WE FEARED'

Some critics blamed the rushed evacuation, which threatens to leave some Americans behind in Afghanistan, for the deaths among the roughly 5,200 Americans providing security at Kabul's airport to close out U.S. involvement in Afghanistan after 20 years of conflict. U.S. officials said on Thursday about 1,000 Americans remained in Afghanistan.

"This is the nightmare we feared - and it's why for weeks, military, intelligence and congressional leaders from both parties have begged the president to stand up to the Taliban and push out the airport perimeter," Republican U.S. Senator Ben Sasse said.

"As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can't trust the Taliban with Americans' security," added Democrat Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in an implicit criticism of Biden's strategy.

Biden, who took office in January, pushed a May withdrawal target set by former President Donald Trump to Aug. 31. But, under pressure from Pentagon officials who warned that security risks from Islamist militants were rising at the airport, Biden refused to move it back further, despite pressure from allied nations.

A Biden adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deaths of American troops underscored both why Biden made the decision to withdraw in the first place and the risks of an extended engagement in the country.

There are further risks to the president, including worsening internal Democratic Party divisions that have been brewing, the adviser said.

Until now, the White House has tried to push back on hostile media coverage, the adviser said, by citing the lack of U.S. deaths in the evacuation effort.

A long-time skeptic of the 20-year military presence in Afghanistan, Biden has said the United States long ago achieved its original rationale for invading the country in 2001: to root out al Qaeda militants and prevent another attack on the United States like the one launched on Sept. 11, 2001.

The mastermind of that attack, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was killed by a U.S. military team in neighboring Pakistan in 2011. Afghanistan's Taliban rulers had harbored al Qaeda militants ahead of the 2001 attack before being toppled from power after the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

After Trump orchestrated a peace deal with the Taliban before leaving office, Biden and his team stayed in constant contact with the group to try to ensure a smooth U.S. evacuation.

Due to the day's events, Biden was forced to postpone - at least until Friday - his first face-to-face meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and canceled a meeting with a bipartisan group of state governors about temporarily housing or helping resettle Afghan refugees.

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan are nightmare scenario for Biden
 

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Comments (18)
Trevor Roberts
LimitUp Aug 27, 2021 6:10AM ET
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As we speak Bidens people are scrambling to bring charges against someone that once knew Trump to change the media narrative asap.
James Andrews
James Andrews Aug 27, 2021 5:45AM ET
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Biden is a nightmare scenario for America.
Michael Paulsen
Michael Paulsen Aug 27, 2021 4:05AM ET
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Biden keeps making deals with the terrorist and its shameful. You must eradicate, bring back napalm and other nasty bombs. Liberal world order is too weak, it's what the biden crowd espouses. Surgical strikes don't work, carpet bombs do.
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey Aug 26, 2021 11:39PM ET
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How to lose a war in 6months? With 2nd rate political Generals and scare them with race, sexual orientation and vaccines)
Mike Mike
Mike Mike Aug 26, 2021 10:05PM ET
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We should have nuked this wasteland 20 years ago.
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey Aug 26, 2021 10:05PM ET
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The USA should never have been there
ZS Beck
ZS Beck Aug 26, 2021 9:11PM ET
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He’s getting used by the Taliban in he’s back hole and used by Isis in he’s front hole.Great job
Pratt Man
Pratt Man Aug 26, 2021 9:01PM ET
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Not really a night mare. He's doing the right thing by saving future American lives. It's a night mare for the previous presidents who didn't have the guts to do this.
Trevor Roberts
LimitUp Aug 26, 2021 9:01PM ET
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You should look into doing more reading, you obviously have no idea what is happening. Check back in soon.
Darren Caris
Darren Caris Aug 26, 2021 7:56PM ET
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If Trump was half as derelict as this he would have been hanged by the dems.
Scot House
Scot House Aug 26, 2021 7:49PM ET
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Probably more of a nightmare to the dead soldiers families. Reuters just need to change Bidens diaper everyday.
bill smith
bill smith Aug 26, 2021 6:38PM ET
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So many people lost their lives and all you want to do is make it political. So sad.
Trevor Roberts
LimitUp Aug 26, 2021 6:38PM ET
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How is it not political, politicians always are to blame for our sons dying on the battle field.
Phil Ht
Phil Ht Aug 26, 2021 5:26PM ET
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This is just the first scandel the press went after him on. It seems its all being orchestrated.
Vlad Lozovskiy
Vlad Lozovskiy Aug 26, 2021 5:26PM ET
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But but but there is insurrection on January 6th! Capitol!!!!
palmer gossett
palmer gossett Aug 26, 2021 5:21PM ET
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I'm guessing that from the start of this pullout, that has been orchestrated to usher Biden out and Harris in as President. What do you think? Because there has been a boatload of intell about things going downhill in Afghanistan since April and probably beforehand.
Trevor Roberts
LimitUp Aug 26, 2021 5:06PM ET
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You have to read entire article to see we lost 12 soldiers and worst day in ten years. Impeach Biden
palmer gossett
palmer gossett Aug 26, 2021 4:33PM ET
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shhh ..Biden currently napping. He will give update just before bedtime at 6pm
Kebarero De Rumle
Kebarero De Rumle Aug 26, 2021 1:29PM ET
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Leave the country. Let the its people manage their own lands. Enough is enough.
Trevor Roberts
LimitUp Aug 26, 2021 1:29PM ET
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Thats not the subject at hand but we should have left long ago
Trevor Roberts
LimitUp Aug 26, 2021 1:21PM ET
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The left at command of the greatest force in history.
Trevor Roberts
LimitUp Aug 26, 2021 1:21PM ET
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How do you put a thumbs down. Isnt the left in charge? What military has ever been more powerful than US forces?
William Smith
William Smith Aug 26, 2021 1:21PM ET
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Just some American hating leftist giving your fact a thumbs down.
Felipe Daniel
Felipe Daniel Aug 26, 2021 12:53PM ET
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Biden is having hard time staying awake
 
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