NBC correspondent: History will remember Afghan withdrawal as ‘very dark period’


NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel said Tuesday that the Biden administration’s ongoing evacuations from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s consolidation of power will be remembered “as a very dark period for the United States.”

Engel, who has reported from Kabul amid the evacuation of Americans and Afghan allies, told NBC’s Chuck Todd that while President Biden’s decision to stick to his Aug. 31 deadline to remove all U.S. troops “makes a lot of sense” from a “tactical standpoint,” it also marks a sharp shift in U.S. policy after 20 years of military operations in Afghanistan. 

“If you lose the Taliban’s cooperation, the Taliban could … unleash people toward the airport, stop cooperating completely, overwhelm the Americans’ process, have that process break down,” the journalist explained.

“But then if you step back and look at what is going on, this is the United States after 20 years,” Engel continued. “This war used to be called Operation Enduring Freedom, and it’s turned out not to be enduring and they’re not leaving behind a society that is free.” 

“It is only free according to what the Taliban says,” he added. 

Engel went on to say, “You can look at this as … a moment of American humiliation, leaving, forced to leave on the Taliban’s clock and with the Taliban’s good graces.” 

“So, tactically it makes sense but I’m not sure how history … I think history will judge this moment as a very dark period for the United States,” he argued.

The NBC correspondent’s analysis comes as the White House reported Tuesday evening that 12,000 additional people had been evacuated from Kabul earlier that day, with U.S. military flights transporting out 6,400 people, and planes from coalition forces carrying 5,600. 

Since the Taliban captured Kabul, the U.S. has evacuated roughly 70,700 people, and a total of 75,900 people since the end of July, according to the White House. 

While bipartisan groups of lawmakers have expressed doubts on Biden’s ability to stick with his Aug. 31 deadline to remove U.S. troops, given the thousands of American and Afghan allies that still need to be evacuated, Biden argued Tuesday that the U.S. will be able to stick to this plan. 

However, the president said that meeting the goal was dependent on “the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allow access to the airport for those we’re transporting out and no disruptions to our operations.” 

Despite this assurance from Biden, several reports have noted that Americans and Afghan allies have faced harassment and attacks while attempting to make their way to the Kabul airport. 

Engel last week joined other journalists in disputing Biden’s claim that Americans had been able to safely make it to the airport, saying, ​​“President Biden just described a very orderly process, an American airlift that is going efficiently, that there’s a negotiation with the Taliban, that it may be difficult but Afghans can get to the airport and then get on these flights and then come to places like Doha.” 

“It is far more chaotic than that,” he added at the time.

Tags afghan evacuations Afghanistan Chuck Todd Joe Biden Kabul NBC News Richard Engel Taliban Taliban takeover U.S. troop Withdrawal
See all Hill.TV See all Video