WASHINGTON (CBS News) — Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley blamed President Biden for the chaos in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover of the country, calling it an “embarrassing failure” of the U.S. government.
“They’re not negotiating with the Taliban, they’ve completely surrendered to the Taliban. They surrendered Bagram Air Force Base, which was a major NATO hub. They surrendered $85 billion worth of equipment and weapons that we should’ve gotten out of there. They’ve surrendered the American people and actually withdrew our troops before they withdrew the American people, and they’ve abandoned our Afghan allies who kept people like my husband safe while they were overseas deploying,” Haley said of the Biden administration in an interview Sunday with “Face the Nation.” “There was no negotiating. This was a complete and total surrender and an embarrassing failure.”
A week after the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan amid the U.S. withdrawal from the country by August 31, the Biden administration continues rushing to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies safely amid deadly chaos and confusion outside the airport in Kabul. The Trump administration negotiated a deal with the Taliban in 2020 that called for U.S. forces to pull out of the country by May 2021, a deadline Mr. Biden extended.
On Saturday, the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan’s capital issued a security warning advising U.S. citizens to “avoid traveling to the airport” unless they’ve received individual instructions from the U.S. government to do so, due to ongoing security threats.
Over a 24-hour period prior to Sunday morning, 58 military and commercial aircraft carrying roughly 7,800 evacuees had departed the Kabul airport. A total of 25,100 people have been relocated since August 14, a defense official said. While it’s unclear how many U.S. citizens have been evacuated from Afghanistan in all, Mr. Biden told ABC News in an interview last week that between 10,000 and 15,000 are in the country.
To assist with the evacuation effort, the Defense Department on Sunday mobilized the use of 18 commercial planes from six U.S. airlines to shuttle evacuees from locations outside Afghanistan. Mr. Biden is set to make remarks about the situation in Afghanistan on Sunday afternoon.
The president has been criticized for his handling of the U.S. drawdown in Afghanistan and the frenzied evacuation of Americans and Afghans who assisted American troops during the 20 year war there, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called top administration officials to testify before them beginning next week.
Haley, who served in the Trump administration, said that in the seven months since Mr. Biden took office, the U.S. has “completely surrendered and humiliated ourselves in the eyes of the world.”
“The Biden administration needs to go back and extend that August 31 deadline and make sure that the Taliban knows they’ve got to let people into the airport, we’ve got to get our Americans out, we’ve got to stay true to those Afghan allies that we made promises to, and we’ve got to make sure we do this in a very strong way going forward,” she said.
While Mr. Biden has continued to stand by his decision to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, he has also blamed former President Donald Trump for leaving the Taliban in “the strongest position militarily since 2001,” citing the former president’s 2020 deal with the group. Haley defended the former president, saying that he “kept terrorism at bay” during his four years in office.
“There are times where you have to negotiate with the devil, but you negotiate with the devil from a point of strength, you don’t do it from a point of weakness,” she said. “We literally have no leverage right now with the Taliban.”
But Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, told “Face the Nation” that the blame for the crisis should not fall solely on Mr. Biden.
“President Biden didn’t create this whole scenario. President Trump did by engaging the Taliban in talks without the Afghan government in the room,” he said. “That began a process of delegitimization of the state and its security forces. That was a huge contributing factor to where we are now. I mean, that said, President Biden owns it. He taken ownership of the policy. He has taken ownership of the envoy who negotiated this thing. So lots of blame to go around here, but it doesn’t all fall on President Biden.”
Still, Crocker said the president’s execution of the drawdown has been “catastrophic.”
“The decision and the execution, and the execution in particular does not speak to competency,” he said of Mr. Biden.
Crocker said he fears that as the Taliban gains more control, they will begin to target Afghans who have spoken out against them and helped the U.S. directly during the war, such as interpreters.
“The chaos may subside, but as it does, I am terribly worried you’re going to see the Taliban start to methodically take care of those they consider their enemies,” he said. “We will be in no position to help them.”
Haley, meanwhile, said the top priority for the U.S. now needs to be ensuring Americans get safely out of Afghanistan, and the Biden administration must “never” acknowledge the Taliban as a legitimate regime.
“We have to figure out a way to get our Americans out and to get our allies out,” she said.