Headlines from major outlets told it all for President Biden’s White House after Thursday’s terrorist attack in Afghanistan that killed at least 13 U.S. service members and more than 90 Afghan civilians.
The Washington Post wrote, “Biden struggles to address the most volatile crisis of his presidency.” The New York Times said, “Biden Faces a Tragedy He Pledged to Avoid.” And Politico termed it “The darkest day of Joe Biden’s presidency.”
Biden already faced criticism not only for the handling of the troop withdrawal, but also for putting the U.S. in the position of having to rely on the Taliban to help get out Americans and Afghan allies. Now, the massacre at the hands of the Islamic State has left the White House reeling as it scrambles to finish the evacuation of its people with no more bloodshed, and reckon with the political damage at home.
The Washington Post noted Biden’s central role in foreign policy debates and decisions for decades as a U.S. senator and vice president, Now, as commander in chief, he is left “explaining how a mission he ordered went so bad so quickly.”
“Public support for the president had already been falling in many polls, and it may take time to show whether he can maintain his image as an able president with solid instincts,” the Washington Post reported.
“Thursday’s carnage, which also killed dozens of Afghan civilians, further isolated Biden from global and domestic allies, many of whom have been critical of the speed of the withdrawal and of the president’s sticking to an Aug. 31 deadline that many of them regard as artificial.”
The New York Times described the horror in Kabul as “exactly what President Biden feared the most.”
“But on Thursday morning, the withdrawal he set in motion claimed the lives of 13 U.S. troops, along with scores of Afghan civilians — the first American casualties in Afghanistan in 18 months and the deadliest day there for the U.S. military since 2011,” the Times reported.
It also noted “few” Democratic lawmakers leapt to Biden’s defense in the bombing’s aftermath, with most expressing grief and anger over the loss of U.S. service members.
President Joe Biden pauses as he speaks about the bombings at the Kabul airport that killed at least 12 U.S. service members, from the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Multiple reports described the White House mood as overwhelmed and grief-stricken. At one point as he addressed reporters on Thursday, Biden lowered his head, eyes closed, with his hands on his chin. Biden defended his decision to leave Afghanistan and vowed to hunt down those responsible for the terrorist attack.
“It was the most devastating moment in Biden’s young presidency,” Politico wrote. “In its wake, U.S. officials remained steadfast that they would conclude the evacuation mission from the 20-year war, raising additional questions about Biden’s handling of the end of America’s longest war. For those in the White House, Thursday was one of the most emotionally trying and frenetic days since taking office.”
Reports were often sympathetic as well, noting Biden’s personal experience with the tragic deaths in his own family and how personally he takes military casualties.
The grim coverage extended to television.
“Nancy, I think it is fair to say this is the worst day of the Biden presidency,” CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell told White House Correspondent Nancy Cordes on Thursday.
“It’s the worst day of the Biden presidency, Norah,” Cordes replied, later adding, “It’s a very momentous time for this White House.”
Fox News’ Cortney O’Brien contributed to this report.