Pelosi circulates WH talking points after Afghanistan collapse

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) makes a statement during an enrollment ceremony on Wednesday, August 4, 2021 for H.R. 3325 which gives a Congressional Gold Medals to the U.S. Capitol Police for their service on Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Greg Nash

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday circulated White House talking points to rank-and-file House Democrats on Afghanistan as President Biden 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.”

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 Trump. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) questioned whether Biden should be removed from office by invoking the 25th Amendment. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (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.

Tags Afghanistan Donald Trump Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Nancy Pelosi Taliban

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