As Afghanistan falls, Fox turns to Bush and Trump vets to blame Biden

Thiessen Perino

Fox News is shamelessly using Bush and Trump administration veterans the network employs to pin all the blame for the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban on President Joe Biden.

The Taliban seized much of Afghanistan over the last week, as its fighters swept aside the country’s U.S.-funded and -trained military and Western-backed government, seized the capital city of Kabul, and forced Afghan President Ashraf Ghani into exile. The swift and sudden collapse is the culmination of nearly two decades of failures by U.S. political, military, and diplomatic leaders since the 2001 invasion that removed the Taliban from power following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

President George W. Bush’s administration failed to capture or kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, rejected a Taliban surrender proposal, and set maximal goals of ensuring freedom and democracy in Afghanistan while pivoting the government’s resources and attention to invading Iraq. President Barack Obama’s administration killed bin Laden, but its troop “surge” did not eliminate the Taliban’s influence, its effort to train Afghan security forces was a failure, and the government it propped up was riddled with corruption. Trump, with little improvement to the Afghan government or military, negotiated an agreement with the Taliban under which all U.S. forces would be out of the country by May 1, and had drawn U.S. troop levels down to 2,500 by the time Biden took office.

Biden has argued for years that a presence in Afghanistan is not in the U.S. strategic interest, and while he pushed back Trump’s withdrawal date to the end of August, he rejected the Pentagon’s effort to keep forces in country for longer, after his military advisers were reportedly unable to tell him when, if not now, the Afghan government might be able to withstand the Taliban on its own. But by his administration’s own admission, officials underestimated how quickly the Taliban would overcome the Afghan government and military and take power, leading to deadly chaos in the country. 

There’s plenty of blame to go around. But Fox is a propaganda outlet that serves as the “opposition” to Biden and has filled its ranks with members of the last two Republican presidential administrations. So over the last two days, the network has trotted out at least five former Trump and Bush officials who are on the payroll, as well as Trump’s daughter-in-law, to explain that Afghanistan’s collapse is entirely Biden’s fault.

Mike Pompeo, Trump’s secretary of state, a Fox contributor, and a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, claimed on Fox News Sunday that “the Biden administration has just failed in its execution of its own plan,” rejecting the idea that Trump bears any responsibility as “pathetic” and arguing that the former president would not have allowed a Taliban takeover. 

The next morning, Fox brought on Lara Trump, who has no experience in government, military, or foreign relations, but is the former president’s daughter-in-law, to discuss Afghanistan:

Later Monday morning, former Bush press secretary and Fox anchor Dana Perino interviewed former Bush chief speechwriter and Fox contributor Marc Thiessen in a segment the network’s chyron writer summarized as “Thiessen: Biden to Blame for Taliban Assault.” 

“Khalid Sheikh Mohammed predicted this,” Thiessen said. “He told his interrogator, after he was captured he said, ‘You Americans, what you don't understand is we don't have to defeat you militarily. We only have to wait long enough for you to defeat yourselves by quitting.’ He predicted this day would come. And on the 20th anniversary of the attack that he carried out, it's come true because of Joe Biden.” 

“Sobering but also very true,” his current and former colleague Perino replied.

That afternoon, Trump’s press secretary offered a similar sentiment that Biden deserved all of the blame and her own former boss, none of it.

As Biden prepared to address the nation, Fox was hosting its chief political analyst and former Bush White House aide Karl Rove.