Pelosi defends Biden on Afghanistan: ‘I trust his judgment’
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday defended President Biden, saying she trusts his “judgment” as he’s come under withering attack from Democratic and Republican lawmakers for sticking by his deadline to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by Aug. 31.
“The judgment about leaving is a judgment that the president has made, and he has to balance the equities of what is the threat to our military and the people at the airport versus the advantage of staying,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol.
Many lawmakers “really want to encourage the president to stay longer, but he has to weigh the equities of the danger versus the advantage, and I trust his judgment.”
In a speech Tuesday, Biden said he believed the U.S. still was “on pace” to evacuate all Americans and Afghan allies by the end of the month, even as he warned of potential terrorist attacks that could disrupt the operation and asked top officials to prepare contingency plans if the U.S. is forced to stay longer.
Top Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, held a classified briefing for all House lawmakers on Tuesday about the situation in Afghanistan, where thousands of American citizens and Afghans who helped the U.S. war effort there are still trying to get out.
But as lawmakers left the briefing, members of both parties, including some national security experts and former diplomats, criticized Biden’s “arbitrary” Aug. 31 deadline, arguing it would surely cause thousands of allies to be left behind and left at the mercy of the Taliban.
One of the most outspoken critics has been Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a former Army Ranger who saw combat in Afghanistan and Iraq and who is a close Pelosi ally.
“There are more of those folks in the country in Afghanistan right now than we have the capability to evacuate between now and the end of the month. That’s why the mission must be extended, and we have to do what’s necessary to get people out, and it doesn’t have to do with a date on the calendar,” Crow told reporters as he left the briefing.
Aug. 31 is “not a Taliban-negotiated date; this was the date that the United States set,” he continued. “And we set that date under different conditions during a different time. Those conditions have changed. We’re in a different world now than we were in when that date was originally set. We have to respond to that different world and that different reality.”
On Wednesday, Pelosi praised Crow for authoring legislation that the House passed last month that would boost the visa cap and expedite the visa process for Afghan interpreters and others who assisted the U.S. troops in the war. He called the bill the Averting Loss of Life and Injury by Expediting SIVs Act, or Allies Act.
“I salute my members, Jason Crow taking the lead on legislation, Allies, to help those who helped us. And hopefully as many of those people will be evacuated as possible, hopefully all. But this is a tragic situation,” said Pelosi, who has made multiple trips to Afghanistan during the 20-year war.
“Well, we obviously made a promise and we want to honor it. And I have enormous respect for Mr. Crow; he’s been a leader, just visionary, he saw what would happen early on and was a leader in passing the legislation.”