Joe Biden 'went against advice' of top staff on withdrawal from Afghanistan

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The US President has seen his popularity plummet after the botched drawdown - AP
The US President has seen his popularity plummet after the botched drawdown - AP

Joe Biden's top cabinet members unsuccessfully tried to dissuade him from pulling all US troops out of Afghanistan, it has emerged.

Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, and Lloyd Austin, the defence secretary, pushed Mr Biden to conduct a slower drawdown, according to Peril, a forthcoming book by journalist Bob Woodward.

Mr Blinken and Mr Austin reportedly believed that would encourage negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government. Mr Blinken had previously staunchly backed Mr Biden's plan to end the 20-year war.

But, according to the book, his view changed after he met with Nato allies in March. Mr Blinken was said to have then telephoned the President from Brussels, telling him he was hearing from Nato allies "in quadraphonic sound" that the US should use its withdrawal to make progress on a political settlement.

The book said: "Previously, he [Mr Blinken] had been foursquare with Biden for a full withdrawal. His new recommendation was to extend the mission with US troops for a while to see if it could yield a political settlement. Buy time for negotiations."

However, Mr Biden was said to have been determined to avoid "mission creep".

He reportedly told a national security meeting the mission was "not to deliver a death blow to the Taliban".

Mr Biden reportedly felt generals had forced former president Barack Obama to keep troops in Afghanistan, but would not do so with him.

The withdrawal turned into a debacle as the Western-backed Afghan government and army collapsed in days and the Taliban took power.

The book also portrayed Mr Biden as a reluctant president. In 2019 he was said to have told his future White House chief of staff Ron Klain: "I just feel like I have to do this. This guy [Donald Trump] just isn't really an American president."

Mr Biden was said to be "not comfortable" in the White House and to have referred to it as "the tomb". When he arrived, he reportedly found Mr Trump's golf simulator still there and said "What a f---ing asshole".

The book also revealed Mr Biden's reaction when he stumbled repeatedly walking up the steps to Air Force One in March. Once on board, Mr Biden reportedly whispered: "F---. F---!"

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