Since Afghanistan crisis began, Biden has spent only 4 of 15 full days in White House

Jennifer Griffin pushes back on Biden’s ‘alternate reality’ on Afghanistan evacuation

Fox News national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin says she couldn’t fact-check the president’s ‘misrepresentations’ of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan fast enough during his speech.

President Biden has spent only four full days at the White House since the Afghanistan crisis began in earnest on August 6, as the Taliban swept into power, forcing the United States to abandon its embassy in Kabul and deploy thousands of troops to secure the city’s airport and run evacuations.

The president has continued to be briefed on events even when not in Washington, according to the White House. And he’s made multiple public appearances at the White House regarding the situation in Afghanistan. 

But nevertheless, the president has spent a remarkable amount of time away from the center of government power and decision-making in the White House amid one of the worst international crises in recent memory. He’s traveled multiple times to both his private residence in Wilmington, Delaware and the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, according to his public schedule. 

Biden spent four of the 15 days since August 6 entirely at the White House, meaning he did not travel to either Delaware or Camp David. Those days were Aug. 11, 18, 19, and 20. 

President Joe Biden speaks about the evacuation of American citizens, their families, SIV applicants and vulnerable Afghans in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Washington. Vice President Kamala Harris listens at left. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

One of those days was Monday, August 16, when Biden began his day in Camp David before traveling to the White House to give an address on the Afghanistan crisis, though he did not answer media questions. After the Monday address, Biden flew back to Camp David. 

The other days that Biden was in the White House for part of the day were August 6, 10, 12, and 17. 

A Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) provides fresh water to a child during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 20. U.S. service members are assisting the Department of State with an orderly drawdown of designated personnel in Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz).

For the rest of that time period – a total of six of 15 days during the Afghanistan crisis – Biden was entirely out of the White House, either at Camp David, his Delaware residence, or traveling between the two. 

For example, Biden was in Wilmington on August 13 before traveling to Camp David where he stayed for the entirety of August 14 and 15. On August 15 – the Sunday when the Taliban took Kabul and the U.S. embassy was abandoned – the White House tweeted a photo of the president in a video call with top officials in an otherwise empty conference room at Camp David. 

Biden’s frequent absence from Washington comes as his Friday press conference contained multiple comments that were detached from the reality on the ground. 

The president said that al Qaeda is “gone” from Afghanistan, citing the group’s alleged absence from the country as a reason why the U.S. should leave. But Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby just minutes later contradicted the president, telling Fox News that “there is an al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan.”

Biden also said in his press conference that “to the best of our knowledge,” the Taliban is allowing Americans to go to the Kabul airport, where the military is running evacuation flights. But Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on a phone call with House lawmakers earlier Friday that there have, in fact, been reports of Americans being beaten by the Taliban on their way to the Kabul airport, according to two lawmakers who were on the call.

Further, Biden asserted there’s been “no question of our credibility from our allies around the world” from the chaotic American exit from Afghanistan – which has included striking images of Afghans falling to their deaths from American planes and former U.S. interpreters and other contractors being hunted by the Taliban. One former interpreter told Fox News, “I wish I didn’t work with the United States,” based on the United States’ handling of the withdrawal. 

And multiple foreign officials explicitly questioned the United States’ credibility in recent days, contrary to Biden’s comment. 

WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 20: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the U.S. military’s ongoing evacuation efforts in Afghanistan as he is joined by (L-R) U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan from the East Room of the White House on August 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
(Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“We also thought America was back, but America is withdrawing,” French Parliamentarian Nathalie Loiseau said, according to Politico, likely referencing a foreign policy promise Biden made earlier this year. 

The White House did not address questions from Fox News about the time the president is spending away from D.C. or the factual errors in his press conference. 

The U.S. is continuing to fly Afghan allies and American citizens out of the Kabul airport as of late Friday. Biden said in his press conference that operations were resumed after a brief pause because of a backlog of refugees in third countries accepting them. 

Kirby added Friday in an impromptu gaggle with reporters that three U.S. CH-47 helicopters picked up 169 Americans a few hundred yards outside the Kabul airport. The Americans had been told to wait in a building for extraction. 

It is not exactly clear when the U.S. will decide its job is done evacuating people from Afghanistan. Biden said Friday he believes the U.S. can complete the job before the August 31 deadline he previously set. But he also said he might reassess that decision when the time comes.

Fox News’ Remy Numa, Nick Kalman, Jacqui Heinrich, Lucas Tomlinson and Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report. 

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