Secretary of State Antony Blinken was vacationing in the Hamptons just hours before Taliban insurgents invaded Kabul and completed their retaking of Afghanistan 20 years after their ouster by U.S.-led forces, according to a new report.
According to a detailed timeline of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul compiled by The Washington Post, the actions by U.S. officials in the days leading up to the collapse suggested “no immediate cause for alarm,” with many of them “surrendering to the customary rhythms of Washington in August.”
Blinken, like other U.S. officials, had to be called back from his vacation once things started rapidly deteriorating in Afghanistan, the report said.
“By August, the dominant view was that the Taliban wasn’t likely to pose a serious threat to Kabul until late fall,” The Post reported. “On the Friday afternoon before Kabul fell, the White House was starting to empty out, as many of the senior staff prepared to take their first vacations of Biden’s young presidency. Earlier in the day, Biden had arrived at Camp David, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken was already in the Hamptons.”
Biden has faced widespread criticism over his execution of the military withdrawal and his actions during and after the collapse of Kabul. The president has repeatedly defended his plan to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, while hundreds of U.S. citizens and tens of thousands of Afghan allies and Afghans vulnerable to Taliban reprisal remain stranded in the country. A State Department spokesman said Sunday that 250 American citizens remain in Afghanistan, three days after ISIS-K terrorists attacked the airport in Kabul, killing 13 U.S. service members and more than 170 Afghans.
Biden assured Americans just last month that a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan was not likely and that he trusted “the capacity of the Afghan military.” The president largely avoided cameras during the debacle, watching the Aug. 15 fall of Kabul unfold from the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.
Three days after the Kabul collapse, Biden was fiercely criticized after he gave public remarks about COVID-19 and failed to address the situation in Afghanistan or take any questions. On Tuesday, his remarks from the White House were delayed more than four hours after being rescheduled twice, and the U.S. evacuation effort in Afghanistan was the last topic he addressed after touting his Build Back Better agenda.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki had an “out of the office” email message for one week starting the same day Kabul collapsed, but returned to the White House the next day. Fox News reached out to the White House Sunday for a separate story and White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates currently has an “out of the office” auto-reply message from Aug. 28 through Sept. 5. The auto-reply directs the press to reach out to other press officers in his absence.