Jen Psaki says she hasn't read Washington Post report that Taliban offered to let US secure Kabul

Media top headlines August 30

In media news today, Obama’s former education secretary gets slammed for likening anti-maskers to Kabul suicide bombers, Disney faces internal pressure to conduct an outside probe of ABC News’ handling of sexual harassment claims, and ABC’s Jon Karl says Biden admin calling Afghanistan a success is not based in ‘reality’

The Biden White House appears to read the Washington Post carefully, but Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed ignorance Monday about a major report from the outlet regarding the crisis in Afghanistan.

RealClearPolitics White House reporter Philip Wegmann cited the Post’s report that the “Taliban offered to stay out of Kabul and let the United States forces secure the city,” but the U.S. said it only needed the airport for its mission.

“Is that reporting accurate?” he asked at Monday’s press briefing.

“I have not seen this reporting,” Psaki said. “I have to look at it.”

In a lengthy account of how the Taliban rapidly seized Afghanistan amid the U.S. troop withdrawal, the Post reported the Biden administration was offered the responsibility of securing Kabul after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled. Aware of President Joe Biden’s desire to withdraw all U.S. troops, despite the Afghan government’s rapid collapse, head of U.S. Central Command Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told the Taliban “the U.S. mission was only to evacuate American citizens, Afghan allies and others at risk.”

“On the spot, an understanding was reached, according to two other U.S. officials: The United States could have the airport until Aug. 31. But the Taliban would control the city,” the Post reported.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain appeared familiar with the Washington Post report, however, liking a tweet from Talking Point Memo’s Josh Marshall defending the Biden administration actions as outlined in the story.

“We were right not to take over security in Kabul when the Taliban asked if we wanted to,” Marshall tweeted to accompany his commentary on the Post story.

“The idea that a few thousand US Marines or soldiers could take over security for a city of 5 million during a process of state collapse is frankly insane,” Marshall wrote. “The Post article portrays the decision as Biden remaining adamant about leaving no matter what. And that is clearly the underlying part of the equation. But if you think holding an airport in this situation is fraught, vulnerable and highly dangerous try taking over security for a city of 5 million under the same circumstances.” 

The Pentagon announced Monday it had completed its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, marking the end of the longest war in U.S. history. Last week, 13 U.S. service members were killed in an Islamic State terrorist suicide bombing near the Kabul airport as evacuations of American citizens and Afghan allies continued.

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