Biden attempts to both claim and pass the buck on Afghanistan: The Note

He said he'd rather take the criticism than pass this to another president.

August 17, 2021, 6:02 AM

The TAKE with Averi Harper

One thing is clear from President Joe Biden's address to the nation on the chaotic state of affairs in Afghanistan, the commander-in-chief's stance on withdrawal is firm.

"I stand squarely behind my decision," Biden said in remarks Monday. "After 20 years I've learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces."

Biden admitted that the Taliban had advanced faster than expected and that he was saddened by the conditions on the ground, but argued he couldn't justify the continued risk to American troops.

"Here's what I believe to my core. It is wrong to order American troops to step up in Afghanistan, when Afghanistan's own forces would not," Biden said.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Afghanistan in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., Aug. 16, 2021.
Chris Kleponis/CNP via Newscom

The president asserted that the "buck stops" with him, but not before also placing blame on the Trump administration, the now-fallen Afghan government, its military and even some Afghans for not departing early enough.

The massive intelligence failure that has led to mayhem in Kabul has few defenders on either side of the aisle and inquiries to find out how things fell apart are undoubtedly coming from federal lawmakers. But Biden's ultimate decision to withdraw troops from the war-torn nation is a popular one; it's a political calculation that has made him willing to weather the avalanche of criticism he is enduring in the meantime.

"I would rather take all that criticism than pass this decision on to another president of the United States," Biden said.

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

One of the biggest lingering questions hanging over the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan is what happens to the Afghan girls and women under Taliban rule.

In his remarks, Biden pledged Americans will "continue to speak out for the basic rights of the Afghan people, of women and girls, just as we speak out all over the world," but human rights advocates worry that won't be enough.

Internally displaced families from northern provinces, who fled from their homes due to the fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces, take shelter in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 14, 2021.
Hedayatullah Amid/EPA via Shutterstock

According to ABC News Senior Foreign Correspondent Ian Pannell, a visible change is already taking place in Kabul as women appear to be proactively staying indoors out of fear of being targeted by the Taliban.

During Monday's emergency United Nations session, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the international community of "chilling reports of severe restrictions on human rights," especially "mounting" violations against Afghan women and girls "who fear a return to the darkest days."

U.S. envoy to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield called on the Taliban to allow "all Afghan nationals and international citizens who wish to depart" to be "allowed to do so safely," adding that the U.S. "promises to be generous in resettling Afghans in our own country."

The issue is even appearing to trickle into American politics.

"The US leaves a political vacuum where the same women they claimed to save are the ones paying the cost," tweeted New York Democratic Congressional candidate, Rana Abdelhamid.

The TIP with Oren Oppenheim

A crowded Senate primary in Wisconsin may be getting one more candidate.

Steven Olikara, founder of the Millennial Action Project advocacy group who launched an exploratory committee for a Senate run in May, tweeted that he'll be making a "big announcement" Wednesday.

The Democratic primary already has 10 other candidates.

Among the highest-profile of them is Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who launched his campaign in early August. Current Gov. Tony Evers is staying on the sidelines for now, but said he supports Barnes' decision while not formally endorsing any candidate.

Other candidates include Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, Milwaukee alderwoman Chantia Lewis and Wisconsin State Treasurer Sara Godlewski. A progressive competitor, Wisconsin State Sen. Chris Larson, dropped out of the race in earlier this month and endorsed Barnes.

Sen. Ron Johnson walks in the U.S. Capitol as the Senate voted on amendments to the FY2022 Budget Resolution on Aug. 10, 2021.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Newcom

A big question is whether incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson will run for reelection.

He hasn't said, but he's already received former President Donald Trump's endorsement. Johnson said in 2016 he would not serve more than two terms, but then said after the 2020 presidential election he was rethinking that in case it helps Republicans keep the Senate seat, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz, talking about what's next for Afghanistan in a total Taliban takeover. ABC News' Lionel Moïse explains how Haiti is bracing itself for bad weather -- which could worsen already dire conditions after a devastating earthquake. And ABC News Transportation Correspondent Gio Benitez tells us how Tesla is being investigated for their autopilot system -- which causes cars to crash into stopped vehicles at the roadside.

FiveThirtyEight's Politics Podcast. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew looks at public opinion on the war in Afghanistan and the Biden administration's decision to withdraw U.S. troops as the country now faces a Taliban takeover. They also discuss how the country has changed demographically and geographically over the past decade, based on the newly released 2020 census data, including how these trends will set the stage for redistricting debates.


  • Pentagon spokesman John Kirby appears on ABC's "Good Morning America."
  • Rhode Island Gov. Daniel McKee appears on ABC's "GMA3: What You Need to Know."
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki and national security adviser Jake Sullivan hold a briefing at 1:30 p.m.
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