Biden ignored Austin, Blinken warnings on Afghanistan withdrawal: Woodward book

President Biden ignored warnings from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, according to forthcoming book from journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

The book “Peril,” set for release Sept. 21, explores how Biden was determined to withdraw from Afghanistan after 20 years of U.S. involvement, CNN reported.

In the book, Woodward and Costa write that Austin and Blinken pushed for a slower withdrawal.

The reporters note that Blinken, who had been in agreement with Biden for a full withdrawal, changed his recommendation about removing all U.S. troops after a meeting with NATO ministers in March, CNN reported.

“His new recommendation was to extend the mission with US troops for a while to see if it could yield a political settlement. Buy time for negotiations,” Woodward and Costa write.

According to CNN, Blinken told Biden on a phone call that he was hearing from other NATO ministers in “quadraphonic sound” that the U.S. should gain concrete steps toward a political settlement. Around the same time, Austin reportedly came up with a proposal for a “gated” withdrawal in three or four stages that would also allow for negotiations.   

But Biden was reportedly determined to not allow “mission creep” to justify keeping troops in Afghanistan.

“Our mission is to stop Afghanistan from being a base for attacking the homeland and US allies by al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, not to deliver a death blow to the Taliban,” Biden said in a meeting of the National Security Council, according to the book.

The Hill has reached out to the White House, State Department and Pentagon for comment.

The U.S. officially withdrew from Afghanistan on Aug. 31, ending America’s longest war. 

Roughly 125,000 people have been evacuated from the country. But the administration has faced bipartisan backlash for the chaotic withdrawal process that ensued after the Taliban took over Afghanistan. 

During a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Blinken said Biden had a choice “between ending the war, or escalating.”

Keeping the military in Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31 would have triggered Taliban attacks on U.S. forces and deeper military engagement, Blinken said.

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