Biden calls off Delaware trip and stays at White House amid Afghanistan chaos

President spends 14 of first 29 weekends as commander in chief in home state

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Friday 20 August 2021 19:29
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Related video: Biden says 13,000 evacuated from Afghanistan

President Joe Biden has called off his planned trip to Delaware and will stay at the White House for the weekend after speaking to the American people about the situation in Afghanistan.

“President Biden will not be travelling to Wilmington as he had been scheduled to do so,” a White House official stated, according to a pool report. “He will instead remain at the White House this weekend.”

After receiving criticism following the publication of an image of a lone president speaking to his national security team over video link from Camp David in the initial stages of the Afghanistan crisis, Mr Biden is now changing course and staying in Washington DC to oversee the progress of evacuations of Americans and Afghan allies from the airport in Kabul.

“The past week has been heartbreaking,” Mr Biden said on Friday as he provided an update on the status of evacuations of American citizens, SIV applicants, vulnerable Afghans, and their family members.

Mr Biden has travelled to Delaware 18 times as president. He was slammed for staying at Camp David in Maryland last weekend as the Taliban took the Afghan capital of Kabul on Sunday.

The president eventually returned to the White House to address the public on Monday, admitting that “this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated”. But after his speech, he avoided answering questions from reporters and made his way back to Camp David again, returning to the White House roughly 24 hours later on Tuesday.

According to figures tabulated by former CBS White House Correspondent Mark Knoller, Mr Biden has spent more of his time off away from the White House than Presidents Obama and Trump.

Out of his first 29 weekends as president, Mr Biden was at the White House for six of them, NPR reported. He was in Wilmington, Delaware for 14 of those weekends and at Camp David during eight weekends. During one of those weekends, the president attended the G7 summit in the UK.

“Clearly, they were flat-footed,” South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told The Washington Post about the White House’s response to the fall of Afghanistan.

Senators received an hour-long briefing about the situation in the country from administration officials, as Mr Biden was spending his time at Camp David.

The briefing was called by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and was attended by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley.

“The thing that struck me, having been with all those guys over the years, was the amount of ‘ums,’ ‘uhs’ and ‘you knows,’” Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso told The Post. “This is a group that usually speaks in complete sentences, and they all sounded, especially Blinken, less confident in what he was saying.”

“These are Democrats who have been supporters of the president and wanted us out of Afghanistan,” Mr Barrasso added. “And the criticism was about the execution, as opposed to the political decision to bring everybody home, and how poorly it was being executed.”

During his speech on Friday, Mr Biden said: “Since I spoke to you on Monday, we’ve made significant progress.”

“Let me be clear: Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home,” he added. “We’re in constant contact with the Taliban.”

On 8 July, Mr Biden was asked if he trusted the Taliban. “It’s a silly question,” he said. “Do I trust the Taliban? No. But I trust the capacity of the Afghan military, who is better trained, better equipped, and more ... more competent in terms of conducting war.”

The Afghan government and armed forces later fell in just 11 days.

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