During his press conference on Thursday following the terrorist attack in Afghanistan that killed 13 U.S. servicemembers, President Biden blamed his generals for the decision to leave Bagram Air Base behind and did not deny reports that his administration gave the Taliban a list of Americans stranded in the region.
On the issue of Bagram Air Base, President Biden said that he made the decision to essentially abandon the location upon his generals’ advice:
On the tactical questions of how to conduct an evacuation or a war, I gather up all the major military personnel that are in Afghanistan, the commanders, as well as the Pentagon. I ask for their best military judgment – what would be the most efficient way to accomplish the mission. They concluded, the military, that Bagram Air Base was not much value-added, that it was much wiser to focus on Kabul. So I followed that recommendation.
As noted by Andrew McCarthy of National Review, Biden’s decision to leave Bagram Air Base contributed to the terror attack at the airport in Kabul, since it signaled to the Taliban that the United States would not be able to mount a counter-offensive as the U.S. military pulled out of the region:
The Bagram bug-out was not merely a shameful episode; it was for Biden a tactical retreat. The Taliban were surging, the Afghan military forces were collapsing, and Biden knew that U.S. commanders wanted to keep a force presence and continue supporting the Afghan government. If there were to be any thought of reversing course, maintaining control of Bagram would have been essential. By not just slashing the in-country troop presence but surrendering Bagram — and in a consciously chaotic and sneaky way that deprived the Afghan forces an orderly transfer at a time when they were under siege and steadily losing their U.S.-dependent capacity to function — the Biden administration guaranteed that there would be no turning back from the decision to pull out. No matter how bad things got, U.S. commanders would have no military options. Besides having surrendered their fortress, they would be down to just 600 troops — not even enough to secure the airport in Kabul and U.S. diplomatic personnel in a real crisis.