Ooof: ABC, NBC Challenge Biden WH on al-Qaeda Threat After Drone Strike

Political News

Amid the welcome news that a recent U.S. drone strike had eliminated al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today provided welcome pushback Tuesday to the Biden administration’s attempted victory lap by pressing National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on the fact that last August’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan allowed Zawahiri to live openly in downtown Kabul.

On GMA, former Clinton official and co-host George Stephanopoulos gingerly went down the road with Sullivan by asking first whether the strike would make a “difference…right now and are you worried about possible retaliation.”

Sullivan insisted the hit proved Biden was “proven” right “that we did not need to keep thousands of American troops in Afghanistan fighting and dying in a 20-year war to be able to hold terrorists” at bay, so Stephanopoulos hit back with the reality that Zawahiri’s presence in downtown Kabul showed Biden’s weakness (click “expand”):

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, some of your critics say the fact he was right there in downtown Kabul as Senator James Inhofe put it reflects the total failure of President Biden’s policy toward that country. Your response.

SULLIVAN: My response is, number one, Ayman Al-Zawahiri is no more. We have taken the leader of al-Qaeda off the battlefield. That is success. Number two, we were fighting in Afghanistan for two decades. American men and women were putting their lives at risk, many died. Many were injured. In that entire 20-year period, Ayman Al-Zawahiri was alive. We left Afghanistan. There is not a single American in harm’s way in that country in uniform and there was nobody on the ground in uniform when this strike occurred and yet we were able to take Ayman Al-Zawahiri off the battlefield. I would call that a successful, effective policy that protects our troops, protects our people, and ensures that Afghanistan will not be a safe haven for terrorists. It certainly was not a safe haven for Ayman al-Zawahiri.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But how will the United States hold the Taliban accountable for violating the Doha agreement, harboring the leader of Al Qaeda?

SULLIVAN: Well, first, we have shown not just in word but in deed we’re prepared to take action to defend our interests and the Taliban understand we’ll keep taking action to ensure that no al-Qaeda leader who is threatening the United States can possibly have safe haven in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. We are in direct communication with the Taliban on this and I’m not going to telegraph our next moves, but the Taliban well understand the United States is going to defend its interests resolutely and ensure that Afghanistan cannot be used as a platform to attack our country.

Today was less tepid. Co-host Savannah Guthrie opened with a question about how active Zawahiri has been as of late with al-Qaeda operations and, while Sullivan complimented her question as “great,” he conceded he hasn’t been “involved in day-to-day planning.”

You Might Like

Guthrie then went to what should be the elephant in the room for any Biden official, recalling the disastrous withdrawal a year ago:

[I]t was just one year ago that the President ordered all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan. And within months, it appears that the leader of al-Qaeda was able to move right back in — in downtown Kabul. Does this signal to you that Afghanistan has once again become a safe harbor for terrorists?

Sullivan was perturbed by this pushback, lamenting that “it’s strange to call it a safe harbor when we just took out the leader of al-Qaeda sitting on his balcony in Kabul” when the answer should be that Biden “made good on his word…to keep this country safe.”

Guthrie thankfully followed up: “[D]o you believe the Taliban government knew that Ayman Al-Zawahiri was living there and what will you do, if anything, to hold the Taliban government accountable, if so?”

Unsurprisingly, Sullivan wouldn’t bite, insisting he wouldn’t “preview any further actions.”

In the second hour, Guthrie told chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel it was “an interesting scenario” for the White House to argue they could still “do these ‘over the horizon’ attacks” while at the same time ceding a country where terrorists can now live in the open.

Engel replied that the administration wants the narrative to be that “this was a huge success” and “proves there’s no need to keep American troops in Afghanistan,” but what can’t be ignored is having to confront this question: “Why was the top leader in Afghanistan anyway less than one year after U.S. troops pulled out? It shows that the Taliban are extremely confident, arrogant, one might say, and that they are not concerned at all with keeping their promise to the United States that they would not allow al-Qaeda to reenter the country.”

CBS Mornings, however, couldn’t be bothered to offer skepticism and instead only levied softballs to Sullivan in an interview that lasted less than two and a half minutes, courtesy of co-host Nate Burleson and fill-in co-host Vladimir Duthiers (click “expand”):

BURLESON: The President’s National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, joins us from the White House to tell us more about this strike. Good morning, Jake. I hope all is well. Let’s jump right into it. We just heard that al-Zawahiri was downtown Kabul with Taliban assistance. What does this say about the relationship between Taliban and al-Qaeda?

(….)

DUTHIERS: Jake, it’s Vlad. So you just confirmed that the Taliban was aware Al-Zawahiri was in Kabul. So, if the Taliban continues to harbor terrorists, what is the United States prepared to do? What is President Biden prepared to do?

To see the relevant ABC and NBC transcripts from August 2, click “expand.”

ABC’s Good Morning America
August 2, 2022
7:07 a.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Live on GMA; One-on-One With National Security Adviser; Jake Sullivan on Strike That Killed Al Qaeda Leader]

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about the operation against Zawahiri. Long hunt, over 20 years. But what difference will it make right now and are you worried about possible retaliation?

SULLIVAN: So, first, Ayman al-Zawahiri was the amir, the leader of al-Qaeda for more than a decade after the death of Bin Laden. He was the man who was the most inspirational figure, the strategic leader who sent guidance regularly to affiliates around the world, someone who sent out messages inspiring his followers to attack and kill Americans and harm the United States. Someone who tried to hold together a global network of terrorists that could continue to threaten both America and Americans and taking him out has undoubtedly made the United States safer. It’s also done one other thing, George. It has proven the President right when he said one year ago that we did not need to keep thousands of American troops in Afghanistan fighting and dying in a 20-year war to be able to hold terrorists at risk and to defeat threats to the United States. He proved that with the order of this decisive strike over the weekend and, again, Americans are safer for that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, some of your critics say the fact he was right there in downtown Kabul as Senator James Inhofe put it reflects the total failure of president Biden’s policy toward that country. Your response.

SULLIVAN: My response is, number one, Ayman Al-Zawahiri is no more. We have taken the leader of al-Qaeda off the battlefield. That is success. Number two, we were fighting in Afghanistan for two decades. American men and women were putting their lives at risk, many died. Many were injured. In that entire 20-year period, Ayman Al-Zawahiri was alive. We left Afghanistan. There is not a single American in harm’s way in that country in uniform and there was nobody on the ground in uniform when this strike occurred and yet we were able to take Ayman Al-Zawahiri off the battlefield. I would call that a successful, effective policy that protects our troops, protects our people, and ensures that Afghanistan will not be a safe haven for terrorists. It certainly was not a safe haven for Ayman al-Zawahiri.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But how will the United States hold the Taliban accountable for violating the Doha agreement, harboring the leader of Al Qaeda?

SULLIVAN: Well, first, we have shown not just in word but in deed we’re prepared to take action to defend our interests and the Taliban understand we’ll keep taking action to ensure that no al-Qaeda leader who is threatening the United States can possibly have safe haven in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. We are in direct communication with the Taliban on this and I’m not going to telegraph our next moves, but the Taliban well understand the United States is going to defend its interests resolutely and ensure that Afghanistan cannot be used as a platform to attack our country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jake Sullivan, thanks for your time this morning.

—————-

NBC’s Today
August 2, 2022
7:06 a.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: National Security Adviser on al-Zawahiri Death]

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And joining us now is national Security Adviser to President Biden, Jake Sullivan. Jake, good morning to you.

JAKE SULLIVAN: Good morning.

GUTHRIE: As we just heard, Ayman al-Zawahiri is notorious. He has a long and disturbing terrorist resume, going back to the embassy bombings in Africa, the USS Cole, 9/11. Clearly an incredibly important security leadership figure — symbolic figure. My question to you is: How active do you think he was right now? Was he actively preparing, executing, planning, inspiring attacks against U.S. interests from Afghanistan?

SULLIVAN: Well, it’s a great question, Savannah. Since bin Laden was killed in 2011, for more than a decade, Ayman al-Zawahiri was the emir of al-Qaeda — that means the number one guy. And he remained a figure of inspiration for al-Qaeda leaders worldwide. But more than that, he worked to try to inspire plots against America and Americans, and he worked to hold together at a strategic level a global network of al-Qaeda terrorists to carry out those plots. So, while he wasn’t involved in day-to-day planning, we believe in the years and months leading up to us taking us off the battlefield, we believe he was playing an active role at a strategic level in directing al-Qaeda and in continuing to pose a severe threat against the United States and American citizens everywhere.

GUTHRIE: As you well know, it was just one year ago that the President ordered all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan. And within months, it appears that the leader of al-Qaeda was able to move right back in — in downtown Kabul. Does this signal to you that Afghanistan has once again become a safe harbor for terrorists?

SULLIVAN: Well, I think it’s strange to call it a safe harbor when we just took out the leader of al-Qaeda sitting on his balcony in Kabul. So, no, it does not signal that to me. What it signals to me, Savannah, is that the President made good on his word when we left. He said the United States did not need to keep sending thousands of American men and women to fight and die in Afghanistan after 20 years of war to keep this country safe. He said we would be able to continue to target and take out terrorists in Afghanistan without troops on the ground. And, over this weekend, with this swift and decisive action that he ordered, he delivered on that promise. He made good on what he said and the United States continues to maintain the capacity to hold at risk any terrorist who plots against us in Afghanistan, or anywhere else, without having thousands of troops on the ground.

GUTHRIE: To put a fine point on it, do you believe the Taliban government knew that Ayman Al-Zawahiri was living there and what will you do, if anything, to hold the Taliban government accountable, if so?

SULLIVAN: We believe that there were senior members of the Haqqani network who are affiliated with the Taliban who did know that Zawahiri was in Kabul. There may have been other members of the Taliban who did not know. We have already been engaged with the Taliban and I’m not going to preview any further actions that we will take to ensure that the Taliban lives up to its commitments not to allow any external plotting from Afghanistan. But rest assured, the United States will be vigilant on that.

(….)

8:02 a.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Al Qaeda Leader Killed in U.S. Drone Strike]

KOTB: We spoke earlier with the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

SULLIVAN: [W]hile he wasn’t involved in day-to-day planning, we believe — [MISSING SCREEN WIPE] — we believe he was playing an active role at a strategic level in directing al-Qaeda and in continuing to go pose a severe threat against the United States and American citizens everywhere.

KOTB: President Biden said there were no civilian casualties during the weekend operation. The mission came nearly one year after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal of Afghanistan.

GUTHRIE: NBC’s chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel has covered al-Zawahiri and his exploits for years. And Richard, he was found in Kabul. It’s an interesting scenario because on the one hand, when the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan, the President said we’ll be able to do these “over the horizon” attacks and target terrorists. On the other hand, here you have a terrorist — the leader of al-Qaeda, living in Kabul.

RICHARD ENGEL: So, the Biden administration is trying to say this was a huge success, that it proves there’s no need to keep American troops in Afghanistan because, as the administration has been saying from the start, if there is a problem, if al-Qaeda starts to reconstitute itself in Afghanistan, the United States with drones and its intelligence assets, can carry out these so-called over-the-horizon strikes from a far — from — from a great distance like it did over the weekend. But it also raises the question: Why was the top leader in Afghanistan anyway less than one year after U.S. troops pulled out? It shows that the Taliban are extremely confident, arrogant, one might say, and that they are not concerned at all with keeping their promise to the United States that they would not allow al-Qaeda to reenter the country. And not only did they allow al-Qaeda in, they allowed the leader to live in one of the safe houses right in the center of Kabul right near the presidential palace. So, yes, they can reach from a far. But it also means that al-Qaeda feels confident enough to go back. And the Taliban feel confident enough to host them.

Articles You May Like

Woman flashed a ‘white privilege card’ during traffic stop, Alaskan police officers in trouble for letting her go
Anti-violence activist who spray-painted ‘no shoot zones’ all over Baltimore was shot
How Japan’s Government Looted the Future—and Its Children Are Paying the Price
Mall owners say retailers are still opening stores in spite of recession fears
Russia Is Slowly and Methodically Wiping Out the Ukrainian Army – No Counter Attack Has Occurred

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.