Biden cuts off questions about Afghanistan amid growing Taliban concerns
President Biden cut off reporters on Friday after three consecutive questions about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, where the intelligence community has warned the government could collapse as soon as next year amid a creeping offensive by the Taliban.
Why it matters: News had broken hours earlier that the U.S. military has departed Bagram Airfield, the center of its war to oust the Taliban and search for the al-Qaeda perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
- Biden told reporters that troops would not be completely gone in the next few days, but that he wanted to ensure there was enough "running room" to complete the withdrawal by September.
- He said that the U.S. has "worked out an over-the-horizon capacity" to assist the Afghan government if air support is needed to keep Kabul out of the hands of the Taliban, but stressed that "the Afghans are going to have to be able to do it themselves with the air force they have, which we're helping them maintain."
What he's saying: "I'm not going to answer any more questions about Afghanistan," Biden then said, moving to cut off reporters. "Look, it's Fourth of July. ... This is a holiday weekend, I'm going to celebrate it. There's great things happening."
The big picture: The top U.S. general in Afghanistan warned Tuesday that the country is at serious risk of sliding into a chaotic civil war, citing the "rapid loss" of district centers each day to Taliban fighters taking advantage of the U.S. drawdown.
- Biden last month vowed a “sustained” partnership with Afghanistan, but he has shown no public reservations about continuing the troop withdrawal.
- "Look, we were in that war for 20 years. 20 years. And I think, I met with the Afghan government here in the White House, in the Oval. I think they have the capacity to be able to sustain the government," he told reporters.