Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiJudge to hear Trump's case against Jan. 6 committee in November Kamala Harris engages with heckler during New York speech GOP lawmaker calls for Meghan, Harry to lose royal titles over paid leave push MORE (D-Calif.) on Monday circulated White House talking points to rank-and-file House Democrats on Afghanistan as President BidenJoe BidenHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room MORE and his party came under withering criticism after Taliban fighters seized control of Kabul in a shocking, chaotic and sometimes deadly scene that played out on TV and on social media.
“The administration knew that there was a distinct possibility that Kabul would fall to the Taliban. It was not an inevitability. It was a possibility,” the White House talking points said, according to a copy obtained by The Hill.
“POTUS said in July that the Afghan military had the capability to fight the Taliban. But they had to demonstrate the will. Sadly, that will did not materialize.”
White House talking points on Afghanistan that @SpeakerPelosi is circulating to House Democrats:— Scott Wong (@scottwongDC) August 16, 2021
"The administration knew that there was a distinct possibility that Kabul would fall to the Taliban. It was not an inevitability. It was a possibility" pic.twitter.com/j0nSSpjvif
The talking points, sent from the Speaker’s office, underscore how politically perilous Pelosi and other party leaders view the Afghanistan issue as Democrats try to defend their narrow majority in the 2022 midterms. Republicans only need to flip a handful of seats to win back control.
As Kabul swiftly fell, Republicans in both the House and the Senate lashed out at Biden for his handling of the U.S. withdrawal, one negotiated last year by his predecessor, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) questioned whether Biden should be removed from office by invoking the 25th Amendment. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyCheney reveals GOP's Banks claimed he was Jan. 6 panel's ranking member House votes to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress GOP memo urges lawmakers to blame White House 'grinches' for Christmas delays MORE (R-Calif.), who has his eye on the Speakership, tweeted a viral video of desperate Afghans trying to cling to the outside of an American plane as it left the runway.
“This is a damning image for the Biden administration, and underscores the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis on the ground. It is unconscionable that the United States president is nowhere to be found,” McCarthy tweeted.
Democrats attempted to wrest back control of the narrative by arguing that neither Biden nor the public wanted to continue to spill more American blood and treasure in a foreign conflict that has lasted two decades.
“The President was not willing to enter a third decade of conflict and surge in thousands of more troops to fight in a civil war that Afghanistan wouldn’t fight for themselves. ...” the talking points said. “[I]ndefinite war was and is unacceptable to the President.”
The Biden administration is now solely focused on safely evacuating U.S. embassy personnel, American citizens, and Afghans who put their lives on the line to help the U.S. war effort. Some 6,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to Afghanistan to help secure the Kabul airport to allow flights to take off.
The White House talking points also say that America faces terrorist threats from countries like Syria, Libya and Yemen where the U.S. does not have “boots on the ground,” though the U.S. still has about 900 troops in Syria aimed at preventing a resurgence of ISIS.
“We have over the horizon counter terrorism capabilities. And, that’s what we’ll do in Afghanistan — prevent, detect and disrupt terrorism threats with over the horizon capabilities,” the talking points said.
“And, we’ll hold the Taliban accountable to not allowing Al Qaeda a safe haven. If they do, there will be consequences that we’ll pursue.”
Rebecca Kheel contributed to this story.