CBS presses Biden White House on 'using dates on a calendar to set White House policy'

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’

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan dodged a question from CBS News Sunday pressing him on the Biden administration “using dates on a calendar to set White House policy.”

As President Joe Biden weathers criticism over the tumultuous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, another self-imposed deadline, the U.S. faces the prospect of leaving American citizens behind in the country after the Aug. 31 deadline the administration set to take out all its forces.

CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe noted on “Face The Nation” that the administration has set markers based on major American dates, such as having coronavirus wrangled by the 4th of July and having all U.S. forces withdrawn from Afghanistan by September 11, which will mark two decades since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I know you don’t oversee everything, you’re in charge of national security, but this summer there was the July Fourth deadline in the hope of declaring independence from the pandemic,” O’Keefe said. “There’s this 9/11 deadline where now the Taliban essentially is going to be back in control of Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary. Has there been any conversation about perhaps not using dates on a calendar to set White House policy anymore?”

“Ed, I’ve got to tell you right now, what we are thinking about all day and all night, including every single hour of last night, is how do we protect our forces at the Kabul airport against imminent threats from ISIS-K? And how do we get those remaining American citizens and others out of the country? That’s what I’m focused on,” Sullivan said. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here. And we are going to keep our focus on that until we get the job done.”

In announcing his troop drawdown plans in April, Biden specifically mentioned Sept. 11 as a milestone to have troops out. The initial U.S. invasion of Afghanistan came following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 masterminded by Al Qaeda leader Usama Bin Laden, who was under Taliban protection at the time. The U.S. invasion swiftly removed the Taliban from power, but bin Laden eluded capture until he was killed by U.S. forces in 2011.

“U.S. troops, as well as forces deployed by our NATO Allies and operational partners, will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of that heinous attack on September 11th,” Biden said in April.

Asked whose idea it was to make 9/11 the “deadline” to remove troops, Sullivan said Biden’s commanders advised him he had about 120 days to execute a safe drawdown, citing the deal struck by the Trump administration with the Taliban for the initial May 1 exit date.

“What we said was that the mission would end before the 20th anniversary of September 11th. That is what the administration laid out. And it was based on 120-day timetable as briefed to the president by the commanders who felt that that was the appropriate timetable to try to execute the drawdown and the completion of the US military mission in Afghanistan,” Sullivan said.

The White House also fell short of its July 4 goal to at least partially vaccinate 70 percent of adults 27 and older by that date. Daily vaccination rates have ticked up in recent weeks as the U.S. endures a surge in the delta variant of the virus.

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